|Seven Month; Four Cases and Huge Verdicts - The Trial Lawyer, Summer 2003|
Defense Attorneys: William H. Staples of Archer Norris
Diving Accident - Dangerous Condition of Public Property
Injuries and Damages: For plaintiff, C-4 quadriplegia. He suffered double-locked facets with C-4 being locked over C-5 causing spinal cord necrosis at that level. Plaintiff's economic loss consisted of $1,064,102 for passed medical bills, $1, 948,380 for loss of earning capacity, and the range of $7,807,932 to $16,292,604 for feature medical needs, most of which represents the cost of 24 hour attendant care.
Settlement's Details: Plaintiff served C.C.P. §998 offer in the amount of $15,999,999. The City offered a total of $12,000,000 in combination with the other defendants.
Verdict for Plaintiff: The verdict for plaintiff was $27,750,000, consisting of $16, 500,000 for economic damages and $11,250,000 for noneconomic damages. The jury assessed fault 60% to the City, 20% to the synchronized swimmer, and 10% to each diving club. The jury found no comparative fault on the part of Mr. Shropshire.
Comment: One significant question confronting plaintiffs' trial counsel before trial was how concisely and persuasively present a large amount of evidence. Their solution - a multimedia presentation intentionally patterned after a Dateline or 60 Minutes investigative report because counsel believed that the jury would be used to receiving information in that manner. Every one of plaintiffs' nearly two hundred trial exhibits was presented electronically, with particular focus on showing various computer-generated diagrams depicting various configurations of the dive pool and the pool facility, photographs of the pool from various perspectives, and photographs and video of the plaintiff, both before and after he was injured. This method of presentation proved so effective that counsel opted not to show "day in the life" video; instead, they used short (5-15 seconds) video clips during the direct examination of plaintiff, and the experts. This allowed the witnesses to talk about plaintiff in more detail and gave the video clips a great deal more context.
The electronic presentation of evidence also enhanced and reinforced impeachment evidence. It is an extremely powerful moment when the jury sees the witness contradict himself or herself via an adjacent video monitor.
Finally, plaintiff's presentation contrasted sharply by the presentation
by the defense, which involved shuffling corkboards back and forth and
publishing hardcopies of documents to the jury. In the end, the jury looked
to plaintiff for the evidence not only because they had become accustomed
to receiving it in an electronic fashion, but also because plaintiff's
evidence was more creditable due in part to the seamless way it was presented.