A Jury Trial
Got up at 5:30 this morning to go to Gwinnett County State Court to begin a jury trial on a soft tissue injury case (commonly referred to as a “whiplash” injury). Allstate’s top and final offer is $8,000.00 and my final demand is $18,000.00. Sometimes, you just have to get in the pit and wrestle with them. Start to set up and suddenly approached by the deputy sheriff assigned to this judge’s courtroom and he apparently runs the courtroom like the gestapo police. He informs me that I’m seated in the wrong seat as he wants all attorneys to sit at the end of the table closest to the center of the courtroom. I comply.
Judge is very pro defense as is evident by the fact that she rules against me on all motions and guts my claim in the case for attorney fees and court costs before hearing any of the evidence. Unbelievable.
It takes the jury clerk until almost 11:00 to assemble enough jurors for us to pick through (36). We question jurors and finally at 12:45, eliminate down to the required 12 and they are seated in the jury box. I tell my client to sit back, relax and enjoy the show. I give my opening statement and as usual, I’m interrupted by opposing counsel at least twice and the Judge agrees with her and sustains the objections. I say as usual because I don’t feel that I’ve done a good opening unless I’ve pushed the envelope and stepped over the line a few times which almost always results in the objections from opposing counsel.
Speaking of opposing counsel, she is a rather obese women and the client she is representing is even bigger than she is. I whisper to my client that I’m glad that we are not deciding the case by a wrestling match as we wouldn’t stand a chance against those two. Realize right away that I should not have whispered it as client bursts out laughing which immediately causes stares from the jury and an ugly face from the judge. Opposing counsel then takes a stab at her opening statement and then we begin to put up our evidence and witness testimony. Judge lets the jury go home early around 4:00 so that we can have a charge conference regarding what jury charges will be read to the jury before their final deliberations tomorrow. Leave the courtroom at 5:00 and head back to the office. Dinner then work on testimony outlines and prepare closing argument for tomorrow. Early to bed.JURY TRIAL - Day 2
Get up at 5:30 again and drive to the Gwinnett County courthouse. Court is supposed to start at 9:00 but Judge doesn’t get to the bench until 9:30ish. We finish with our witness testimony and then read a chiropractor deposition that was previously taken by me of my clients principal treating doctor. The Chiropractor says that client’s neck injury is permanent. I then tender a life table into evidence and I will explain to the jury how to use it in my closing argument.
We rest our case. Defense counsel announces that they are not going to put up any evidence. I then move for a directed verdict on all damage issues arguing that our evidence is not controverted by any evidence other than argument of opposing counsel and she is not a doctor. Judge smiles at me and denies my motions. At least she’s consistent.
After lunch we do our closing arguments (again I’m interrupted by opposing counsel twice and of course the Judge agrees with her and sustains the objections). At this point I have not won a single motion or issue in the case. My closing argument is good and I have three (3) jurors nodding their heads in agreement as I tick off the salient points of why we are more right than wrong in this case and the jury is writing down the damage figures that I’ve written on the board which is usually a good sign. My theme is that “they have been too wrong for too long”.
Jury is charged by the Judge and they retire to the jury room for their deliberations. Jury knocks on the jury room door two (2) hours later and tell the bailiff that they have reached a verdict. We all reassemble in the courtroom and the foreperson of the jury stands and reads the verdict. “We the jury find in favor of the Plaintiff (my client) in the amount of $43,670.16". Not bad for one and a half days in court considering that they only offered me $8,000.00.
Hopefully they won’t appeal and they will simply pay the verdict. This jury trial is over and now I’m on to the next case which will either settle or will result in another jury trial. Oh....the life of a trial attorney......