Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lawyer Tirades costs client $15 million

I have recently posted a couple of comments on cases that discuss the limits of proper argument (here and here). Here is another new case on the subject.

In this case, the plaintiff argued she suffered catastrophic injuries at age 12 when she was hit by a minivan owned by the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago. The defendant was represented by a lawyer who engaged in repeated loud tirades which the deputy sheriff told the judge jurors could hear even when the judge asked the attorney to keep his voice down.

According to the judge, the blowups were ''purposefully made for the jury to hear,'' as part of a ''grandiose display of arrogance to the judicial system,'' by a defense lawyer who ''ignored the court in an effort to divert justice.'' This is as great a description of an improper argument as I have ever seen.

Relying in part on the deputy's statements, the trial judge concluded that the plaintiff was entitled to a second trial. The second trial was held and the new jury found for the plaintiff to the tune of more than $15 million.

The defendant appealed arguing that the trial judge erred in relying on the deputy's off-the-record statements about what the jurors heard, but the Court of Appeals sustained the lower court. Finding that there was no contradiction between the trial court's recollection and the record, the trial court was be permitted to rely upon its recollections. And, based on the extensive record of persistent misconduct by the defendant's attorney, the Court found no abuse of discretion in granting the second trial.

The case, U.S. Bank v. YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, can be found here.

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