I had back to back trials recently. The second was a two-week trial in Federal Court against General Motors on behalf of my client. We sued GM alleging their roof on GMC Savannah was too weak to protect occupants in a rollover crash. We worked on the case for over 2 years prior to trial. Thousands of documents were produced, many depositions taken and we fought really hard for an amazing and deserving client. Rollover cases can be tough and their success depends on the vehicle, the strength of its roof, the snugness of the seatbelt and the facts of the incident. Forces in a rollover can be serious, juries can be reluctant to blame a manufacturer, and they are hard fought by the defendants.
I partnered with a large law firm and tried a rollover case against Chrysler back in 2006. We put a lot of work in that case and tried it for 6 weeks in the City of St. Louis. At the end of the case, we asked for a large recovery for our clients (2 deaths, one severe injured client and other minor injured) We lost - the jury returned a defense verdict. But that crash was at 70 mph and involved many rollovers.
The case last week was deferent: 30mph roll on an exit ramp to rest stop; 2 rolls; 2 woman occupants and 4 dogs. But the injuries were catastrophic- my client was paralyzed from her 6th cervical vertebra down. She handled her injury with poise, courage, and temerity. Her testimony was moving and her efforts to recover and live with her injury have been heroic. We had top notch experts and presented our case well. We really burned the midnight oil and gave it our all. Unfortunately, the jury returned a defense verdict and no recovery was obtained.
Why write about it? Good trial lawyers don’t win every case. I am as proud of my work in this case, or more so, as I am for other successes for clients I write about. It's important to fight the good fight and stand up for what is right. And we hone our craft through trials and zealously representing our clients; we can learn as much in defeat as in victory.
As we progress in life we relearn the wisdom of the serenity prayer – We can only control our actions and not the outcome of many things in life. It's hard to truly accept the things we cannot change – or as my client said on the stand. "I prayed for God to heal me, but whether He would, was up to Him." As heartbreaking as the loss was, I redouble my efforts in my other cases to do as well as I can.
Some lessons: When defendant’s experts have testified a lot you don’t need OSI’s (other similar incidents) in a products liability case – use their other cases; remember we are trying cases in 2016 and jurors often are numb to our client’s plight and don’t look on lawsuits well. The public is also numb to corporate bad behavior – what was outrageous 20 years ago is ho-hum now. In a product liability case, the plaintiff must show a defect was unreasonably dangerous when put to anticipated use. It seems like you have to show really bad stuff to win these days - unless you have the killer smoking gun document or depot, you will have a tough time. We have really good ways to do this, and I am psyched for the next one.