Litigation Success: Preparation Always Pays Off, Especially at Trial

Litigation Success: Preparation Always Pays Off, Especially at Trial

Preparation Always Pays Off, Especially at Trial

Smith Freed Eberhard Partner Katie Buxman recently obtained a defense verdict in favor of her client by effectively cross examining the plaintiff’s expert witness to show the jury that the plaintiff had given the expert only a portion of the relevant evidence.

The Background Story

In a motor vehicle accident case, the driver of a car (the plaintiff) filed suit against the driver of another car (the defendant) alleging that the defendant rear-ended his car on the highway. Although the impact was minimal, the plaintiff sought $1.2 million in damages, claiming that he suffered a re-herniation of a disc in his low back and that he was disabled as a result of the accident and can no longer work. Further, he claimed that the accident caused injuries to his neck, shoulder, left leg, and left arm and that he suffered from headaches, bladder issues, and insomnia.

The Strategy

Smith Freed Eberhard Partner, Katie Buxman was asked to represent the defendant. Katie’s initial investigation and discovery revealed that the plaintiff had preexisting injuries. In fact, many of the plaintiff’s claims were similar to his complaints before the accident. Katie decided that it would be unwise to deny liability. Instead, it would be wiser to attack the plaintiff on the allegation that the accident with Katie’s client was a direct cause of his injuries.

As trial approached, Katie, associate attorney Heather Lee, and the rest of their team worked hard to obtain and prepare evidence to attack the plaintiff’s credibility. Katie prepared evidence that would support the position she intended to take at trial: while there is no dispute that the defendant was at fault, the plaintiff had many preexisting injuries, and it was unlikely that such a minor rear-end accident could have caused the nature and extent of the injuries as claimed by the plaintiff.

The hard work and pre-trial preparation paid off. Katie had a strong line-up of experts who thoroughly reviewed all the evidence Katie provided and came to the same conclusion. The accident reconstructionist, the doctor who performed an Independent Medical Examination (“IME”) of the plaintiff, and the biomechanical expert were prepared and presented well to the jury. The experts’ evidence pointed to the fact that it was unlikely that the plaintiff’s injuries were related to the accident with Katie’s client.

Katie then cross-examined the plaintiff and expert witnesses who testified on behalf of the plaintiff. Katie made sure that the jury could see the contradictions between the plaintiff’s medical records and his testimony during depositions. Katie cross-examined the IME doctor for the plaintiff and found that the plaintiff failed to provide the doctor with information relevant to his testimony at trial. For instance, the doctor did not obtain various missing pre-accident records and did not know that the plaintiff missed significant hours of work before the accident. When questioned by Katie, the doctor had no choice but to admit that without all the evidence, he was unable to testify to a degree of medical certainty that the injuries suffered by the plaintiff were related to the accident with Katie’s client.

The Outcome

Katie’s approach to the case, strategy at trial, and the help of her team proved to be successful. The jury found Katie’s argument and evidence to be credible. After just 40 minutes of deliberations the jury returned a verdict for the defense, finding that the plaintiff was not entitled to any damages.