Sometimes You Just Have to Go To Trial
A trial by jury is the foundation of our civil justice system, so important that it was included as the Seventh Amendment to our Constitution in the Bill of Rights written by the Founding Fathers over 200 years ago. But over the years, the cost of litigation, the risks of an all or nothing trial result, and increasingly effective mediation have resulted in less than 1% of civil cases going to trial.
But, sometimes you just have to go to trial.
Last fall, the Gallagher & Kennedy Personal Injury father and son team of Bob Boatman and Matt Boatman went to trial in Gila County in a case where State Farm (the insurance company for the defendant) thought the plaintiff could never win.
G&K’s client had been badly hurt in a motorcycle accident with a truck on a dirt road in the forest outside of Payson. Both drivers claimed the other was in the wrong lane and caused the accident. Our client had some personal problems in the past and did not have a license at the time of the accident. There were felony convictions. And the defendant was the beloved fire captain of the local community. Of course, the sheriff investigating the accident made sure his friend was not at fault and filed criminal charges against our client for the damage his body did to the fire captain’s truck’s bumper.
Despite over $150,000 in medical expenses, State Farm would not offer over $20,000. So, off to trial we went.
Choosing an impartial jury was tough. Many potential jurors hated motorcyclists, particularly one who didn’t wear a helmet. Some couldn’t forgive a criminal past. Many would not ever be able to believe an unemployed carpenter over a fire captain and the sheriff. But, finally, a jury was chosen.
For only two days the jury heard the testimony – the drivers, an eyewitness, the sheriff’s deputy, and a very expensive expert hired by State Farm to show the accident was all the plaintiff’s fault.
But, the plaintiff was very nice and believable. The defendant was arrogant and went so far overboard in his testimony that he was hard to believe. “Whoever is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in big things too.” The expensive expert witness and the local deputy were shown to be biased – and to have omitted key evidence in their reports.
So the motorcycle accident case that State Farm said the plaintiff could never win went to trial, and the jury awarded our injured client $500,000!
Sometimes you just have to go to trial . . . . . .