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Morgan Smith

Getting a Brain Injury Animation Admitted the Hard Way

brain-injury-125x125The great thing about trials is you never know what’s going to happen. I certainly never heard of an attorney offering to place herself into potential physical harm in order to get an animation admitted into trial, but that’s exactly how Julie K. Parker got an animation done by this office into her recent trial Hoopfer v. Fry’s Electronics.

First, a little bit of background information on this case: Ms. Parker of La Mesa (San Diego County) and her co-counsel Cassandra Thorson represented Kevin Hoopfer who shoplifted a $35 item from a Fry’s Electronic Store in San Diego. When the security personal saw his shoplifting, one of them followed him out of the store, confronted him and manhandled him to the ground. The defense argued the security guard did nothing more than his job by stopping Mr. Hoopfer and using the force necessary to subdue him when he tried to walk away. However, according to Mr. Hoopfer, he suffered brain damage by the security guard flipping him upside down and smashing his face into the ground.

As a result of the head injury, Mr. Hoopfer has no memory of the incident itself. Luckily for the plaintiff, there was a witness who described the movement of the guard in deposition. Ms. Parker called our office to help with an animation to show this movement.

This animation was extremely difficult to get right in terms of the movement of the two persons to match the perception of the eyewitness. However, once the video was done to the satisfaction of the eyewitness, he confirmed it showed  the movement of the two people properly and would testify under oath at trial that it was an accurate description. Below is the animation that shows a regular-speed view and a slow-motion view, and a view of how Mr. Hoopfer’s brain would hit his skull causing brain injury in the frontal lobe.

At trial, Ms. Parker had a difficult situation with a number of rulings from the bench that were very much in favor of the defense. In particular, the judge was not inclined to allow the animation to come into evidence, even though it simply visualized how the key eyewitness said the incident occurred. (For a legal discussion on getting animations admitted in trial, see my prior post Animation v. Simulation.)

Ms. Parker was not one to give up, however. While the eyewitness was on the stand, Ms. Parker told the judge that if you do not let in the animation, then she wanted to have the 6-foot, 6-inch witness demonstrate  on her what the security guard did by flipping her upside down (and hopefully not hurting her) in open court. The judge relented and let in the above animation.

Ms. Parker told me that the jury literally gasped when they saw the animation, which ultimately had an even stronger impact because the defense had been objecting to showing it throughout the trial in front of the jury, so the jury really wanted to see it.

Ms. Parker said, “Your animation was so very helpful, and I could not have been happier with the efficacy of the animation with the jury.” She added that when you “put a scene in motion like this, people believe it and it becomes the image of the incident that the jury takes back with them during deliberation.”

This case settled after Ms. Parker and Ms. Thorson obtained a finding of liability in the first phase, and a finding of entitled to punitive damages against Fry’s Electronics in the second phase. In speaking with the jury after the settlement, jurors said “the animation was extremely helpful in understanding how this incident occurred and the severity of the impact.”

This case really is an example of “you have to see it to believe it.” My congratulations to Ms. Parker and Ms. Thorson for an amazing result in this case.

I invite you to click on this link to the animations page on our website and to our portfolio, which contain other examples of animations. Please contact me if you have questions about developing an animation for a case.

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