Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Defense verdict: a bitter sweet victory

I recently had a defense verdict in a trial. The plaintiff's claim may have been legitimate IF the law supported her claim. She legitimately was damaged, though not in the amount she claimed (as is the case with most plaintiffs). Unfortunately, the law did not support her claim. Our motion for a directed verdict was denied (in error), only to have the jury decide in our favor anyway.

This plaintiff thought she had a slam dunk case (after, I'm sure, her attorney over-assured her he would win).  She believed her attorney that he would win, and after years and tens of thousands of dollars in costs alone, her gamble didn't pay off.

It was even worse that she didn't understand the verdict when it was read because the judge didn't read the verdict question before giving the jury's answer to the question. Her attorney obviously didn't prepare her for that part of trial. She was clearly confused and scared when the jury was dismissed without discussing damages.

Her lawyer then turned to her and explained that they lost the case. She sunk in her chair and stared at counsel table for 20 minutes while the judge discussed the verdict privately with the jurors. 

Throughout this case, plaintiff's lawyer was so arrogant and boastful, I thought a victory would prove very satisfying. I even thought about secretly taking a picture when we won. He stood firm even though he was wrong (and despite our repeated attempts to educate him). After the verdict was read, his face sunk. He greeted us afterwards with grace, and was obviously humbled.

I think the saddest fact of the whole trial was that this case was going to make or break two people: plaintiff and her lawyer. If we lost, and the jury returned a verdict in plaintiff's favor, I would still have a roof over my head, food on my table, and gas in my car. These two people desperately needed a verdict in their favor to survive.


  1. I understand that feeling. I do defense and sometimes I really feel bad for the plaintiff, although that doesn't mean our client did anything wrong. Mostly I get irritated with the plaintiff's attorney. I feel like they build them up about their case. If they've been hurt or lost a loved one, they want to have someone to blame and some attorneys exploit that.

    Sure, there are legitimate cases and times when they absolutely should be compensated. But those cases rarely make it to my desk before they are settled.

    Congrats on the win, although it's hard sometimes to feel celebratory at someone else's expense.

  2. I wish there was more education for plaintiffs, coupled with harsher ethics rules for over-evaluating plaintiff attorneys. Just sad.