Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rules

I just returned from doing focus groups in Louisiana for a client on a case where an employee, with a company vehicle, got drunk and caused a fatal collision. Case is all about the drunk driver, right? Not. We needed to make the case against the company for hiring the driver, not against the drunk driver, as there was a punitive damages claim.
So day 1, good presentation by both lawyers, but its more about the drunk driver than the company that hired him. Day 2, we re-frame the case and start out with the rules, how the company violated their hiring rules, that these rules are safety rules, how breaking them endangers all users of the road and how the employer chose not to follow its own rules.

We saw a big change in compensatory damages, with the focus group in effect giving de facto punitive damages, and then a huge punitive damage award as well.

Moral? Juries don't like rule breakers. We need to establish the rules in depositions so we can use them at trial.

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