We continue our Inside Beasley Allen series with a look at how staff use trial graphics to bring a client’s story to life at trial.
When a client’s case is headed to trial, it is important to bring that case to life. Gone are the days of flipcharts and enlarged images on foam board perched on easel stands. Most modern-day jurors typically are plugged into a smart device, such as a smartphone or tablet, throughout the day. The same cutting-edge and interactive technology helps capture jurors’ attention and allows them to visualize as lawyers explain the life-changing events in a client’s story.
Beasley Allen lawyers and staff, including legal assistants and litigation technology specialists, work together to assemble the different pieces of a client’s case that will be essential to trial. Ashley Pugh is one of those specialists. She is part of the firm’s Fraud Section and develops presentations for fraud trials but she also assists in developing similar presentations for Personal Injury and Product Liability clients, as well. The process is similar, yet the type of case will determine the approach.
Fraud cases are typically more document-intensive, which requires longer lead time for prep than a Personal Injury and Product Liability case before a trial begins. Litigation technology staff may begin as early as six months prior to the start of a trial to collect and organize video footage of depositions. They will create images of the exhibits and, by using a special software, will sync the images with the corresponding portions of the video deposition. This generates a presentation for use at trial.
During the recent whistleblower case on behalf of Barry Taul, a significant focus was on billing invoices because of the plaintiff’s allegation that his former employer engaged in an illegal kickback and false billing scheme. One exhibit included 27 invoices. Ashley used different slides or images to walk jurors through the first invoice. Spreadsheet images offered further explanation of key evidence included in the invoice. The pattern was repeated for all the other invoices that helped confirm Taul’s testimony about the illegal activity.
Presentations for Personal Injury and Product Liability cases normally require less initial prep time but demand more flexibility and preparation throughout a trial. The focus is on people, their actions and trial testimony – all of which are less definitive than document exhibits in a fraud case. Staff pull together the different components, including video, pictures and other exhibit images they believe will be useful at trial, but a witness’ testimony on one day may require additional prep later that night so that presentations can be responsive the following day.
“These presentations not only guide jurors through the evidence, the process of creating them may also reveal additional information that is critical to a case,” said Ashley.
Ashley made this type of discovery during the trial for the firm’s client Colin Lacy. Colin’s spine was severed at the T-10 level when the Freightliner truck he was driving went out of control. The accident occurred because Empire Truck Sales, LLC, which had just serviced the truck, left a lateral control rod detached and caused a defect in the truck’s brake system.
During the trial, an exemplary video was used to demonstrate what happens when the control arm comes lose. While reviewing the video and looking for a specific clip, Ashley discovered that the sound was missing from a key portion of the video. The sound, inside and outside of the vehicle, disappeared just before the control arm detached and it became observable again following the component’s breaking. When asked about the missing sound in court, the defendants were unable to provide an explanation.
Litigation technology, like other services provided by the firm, calls for an extremely personal investment from staff. They become intimately familiar with a client’s case and their need for justice. Spending time with a client, becoming immersed in the details of the event or events that changed their life, and watching how the experience shapes them is an emotional investment that comes with “helping those who need it most.”
“It is a very emotional process but the benefit comes from seeing your work transform someone’s life like our client Colin Lacy. He is a stronger, more confident and positive man today than he was during the trial. You are glad you get to be part of the process that achieved justice for someone devastated by the actions of others,” said Ashley.
Visit BeasleyAllen.com July 12 for the next installment in our Inside Beasley Allen series.