A few days before a trial was set to start in Solano County Superior Court, Cogent Legal got a call from counsel for the plaintiff. The case, against a major candy maker, was being tried by Robert Barnett and Ben Scott of Barnett & Bennett Law Firm. The attorneys realized they had photographs for use in trial that might confuse the jury rather than make their case clear.
The case involved the candy company failing to completely guard a chain-and-sprocket mechanism within one of their sugar silos at the factory. While a candy factory may conjure up lighthearted ideas of Willy Wonka, in this factory, the plaintiff suffered a de-gloving amputation of his third and fourth fingers on his right hand, resulting in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS, formally known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or RSD).
I had a case with Robert Barnett a few years ago while I was still practicing law, and we both represented different plaintiffs in a multi-car incident case. What made this case interesting on a personal level is that it was Bob’s last trial and Ben’s first trial, so it spanned the generations of legal talent.
When the attorneys called me, they expressed concern that their photographs of the factory silo failed to help the jury understand the overall context of this incident site and the equipment involved. Since the silo was a confined space, the photos were all taken close up and therefore didn’t show how all the equipment worked and fit together. The attorneys were concerned it would be difficult to convey, with only the photos, where people who were present at the incident were located and what exactly happened.
I immediately recommended that Cogent Legal’s designer create a 3D model of the entire silo, as well as a closeup of the equipment involved, to give context to this case. With just a few days’ turnaround time, we created several images. The first board showed the equipment in terms of the overall scale of the structure.
Another image we created showed the unguarded gear box that violated OSHA rules on equipment.
The insurance carrier had given plaintiff a 998 (offer to compromise) for $430,000 several months before the trial and never considered going above that number. During trial, and right before the jury began deliberation, the insurance carrier offered a high/low of $100,000/$300,000 (obviously lower than their prior 998).
The verdict? A fantastic $4.6 million.
This case is a great example of how trial graphics can go far beyond photographs to enhance juror understanding. In fact, in a case like this, the graphics were indispensable. As Bob Barnett explained, “I don’t think the jury could understand what happened without the graphic displays. Nobody has been in something like a sugar silo. It’s just outside common experience. We had two days’ testimony from six witnesses all focused on the events that happened in that silo in about three minutes. The various displays allowed the testimony to be shown and told instead of guessing and confusion.”
After the trial, Ben Scott said about Cogent Legal’s work, “It is such a bonus to have someone who understands the law. In addition to the graphics, Morgan gave us some great suggestions on other aspects of the case that really helped us out. In the end, the jury understood what we were trying to show them, and we got a great verdict for our client. Morgan delivered on everything he promised and more; we will definitely use him again.”
All of us at Cogent Legal congratulate this great team on a wonderful result for their client.
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