Epstein Case: Ghislaine Maxwell’s Deposition Transcript Unsealed

The 2016 transcript pertains to a defamation lawsuit filed in New York and was produced by Magna Legal Service’s Court Reporting.

Read Ghislaine Maxwell’s original deposition here.
PDF retrieved from The New York Times.

Magna Legal Services again gains national recognition for its good work in providing court reporting services in the deposition of Ghislaine Maxwell.

We are proud of our court reporters who give us the reputation as the international go-to court reporting and litigation consulting company for large, important and well-known cases.

Magna made its way into all of the top news stories through Ghislaine Maxwell’s deposition transcript that just got unsealed yesterday morning,
October 22nd.

People can now read the 2016 transcript, which is all over the press and
twitter, and has Magna’s logo on almost every page!. https://www.npr.org/2020/10/22/926590153/jeffrey-epstein-update-read-the-deposition-that-ghislaine-maxwell-fought-to-hide

No matter the case, Magna always brings that same award-winning reliability.

Click to learn more about Magna’s in-person court reporting and virtual deposition services.

Florida vs Erin Robinson: Jury & Trial Strategy. Ross Suter weighs in on Court TV

Aired live on 10.20.2020

Live on Court TV yesterday, Magna’s Ross Suter weighed in on the Florida vs. Erin Robinson “Jealous Lover Murder Trial” and how new COVID protocols can affect the trial.

The plaintiff is a Florida man, Erin Robinson, who is facing decades in prison for allegedly brutally beating a man to death for making comments to his girlfriend. Yesterday, 12 jurors and 2 alternates were selected for the trial.

“While we call it jury selection… the defense side is looking to ‘de-select’ jurors”, Ross Suter said while discussing voir dire strategy.

Watch above for the full Court TV recording, where Ross Suter explains how social distancing, masks, face-shields and people’s unwilliness to show up for jury duty may affect the trial.

Magna Legal Services Opens Colorado Office

Magna Legal Services, a nation-wide jury research, litigation graphics, medical records collection and court reporting company, opened a new office in Colorado to better serve the Denver legal industry. Magna’s Joseph Glenn is taking his decade of legal support experience to Colorado to lead business development in the new office located at 9250 E. Costilla Avenue, Suite 130, Greenwood Village, CO 80112.

Joe Glenn is a Bucknell University alumnus, holding a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. After 5 years of working for Chicago’s leading trial consulting firm, Creative Counsel, he joined Magna’s Chicago team when Magna acquired his company in 2015. There, Joe demonstrated his ability to assist clients with reducing litigation spend and designing custom programs to secure more successful case outcomes.

“2020 has sure been a tough year… and I think we could all agree that we hate COVID-19! Magna’s move into Denver was in motion prior to the pandemic and we have been active in the Colorado market since our company founded 2007. Joe’s industry experience will be a great asset to all the Mile High City litigators and trial attorneys. ”

PETER HECHT, Magna co-founding Partner & Executive VP of Sales

Conference rooms for hosting depositions are available at the Magna’s Colorado location at no extra charge when used with a Magna LS court reporter. Additionally, Magna is still providing complimentary use of their virtual deposition platform with a Magna court reporter, which includes free tech support monitoring & user training (limited time during COVID-crisis).

About Magna:
Magna Legal Services provides end-to-end legal support services with 100% remote capabilities to law firms, corporations and governmental agencies throughout the nation. With a mission to deliver legal support in a high-quality, reliable and responsive manner, Magna provides strategic advantages to clients at every stage of the litigation cycle, including:

  • Court Reporting
  • Virtual Depositions, Mediations, Hearings & Arbitrations
  • Record Retrieval Services
  • Interpreting & Translation Services
  • Jury Consulting
  • Witness Preparation
  • Online Focus Groups & Mock Trials
  • Social Media Surveillance
  • Trial Graphics Consulting
  • Accident Recreation Videos
  • Trial Presentation
  • Video Services (& Certified Legal Videography)
  • Courtroom & War Room set-up
  • & more!

This article was originally published on October 13, 2020 by PRWeb

Strategies for Successful Virtual Courtroom Proceedings: Webinar by WAWTA

Webinar originally aired live on August 20, 2020

“In-person civil proceedings may be making a comeback in a few parts of the country, but virtual litigation is going to remain the order of the day for awhile longer.”

Law.com covered a great webinar that took place last week, “Strategies for Successful Virtual Courtroom Proceedings”, presented by the Washington Area Women Trial Attorneys and hosted by Magna’s own Canby B. Wood, Esq.

In May 2020, a Texas court held the nation’s first jury trial via Zoom. WAWTA’s webinar featured Judge Miskel, who presided over that case, as well as U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm, and other expert panelists. Watch the full webinar recording above to hear the panelists as discuss the future of remote courtroom proceedings in a COVID-19 world and new litigation strategies, including best practices for virtual hearings, trials, and motion arguments.

Law.com journalist Scott Graham wrote:

Texas state court Judge Emily Miskel was the star of the 90-minute webinar. Miskel presided over the nation’s first remote jury trial in May, and it sounded as if virtual proceedings have become second nature for her. “I finished up a bench trial today at lunchtime and we had about 24 people watching on YouTube,” she said.

Miskel said that four of the 12 jurors who served on her May trial had previously served on in-person juries, and reported that they could see witnesses and evidence on Zoom better than they could when seated from an angle, across a large courtroom. “I know many judges and attorneys are cautious about whether you can judge a witness’ credibility on Zoom,” she said, but the feedback from participants has been positive.

Click here to view the full Law.com article.

Webinar Speakers:

  • Judge Paul W. Grimm, United States District Court for the District of Maryland
  • Judge Emily Miskel, 470th District Court, Collin County, Texas
  • Michelle S. Kallen, Deputy Solicitor General, Office of Attorney General of Virginia
  • Katherine A. Helm, Partner, Dechert

Co-Moderators:

  • Sarah A. Tomkowiak, Partner, Latham & Watkins
  • Sarah M. Gragert, Counsel, Latham & Watkins

Introductory Statements:

  • Canby Wood, Esq., Magna Legal Services; Co-Founder, Washington Area Women Trial Attorneys
  • Judge Mark A. Drummond, Circuit Court Judge, 8th Judicial Circuit of Illinois (Retired); Judicial Director, Civil Jury Project

Click here to view more upcoming webinars and conferences by Magna

Virtual Mock Trial for Nursing Students: Tarrant County College & Texas A&M University Law School

FORT WORTH, Texas (PRWEB) August 13, 2020

On October 9th, Tarrant County College and Texas A&M University School of Law are hosting their first mock trial geared toward nursing students, which will now take place virtually with the support of Magna Legal Services.

The mock trial program is designed to help students understand the legal responsibilities of healthcare workers, malpractice cases and other legal implications of the nursing practice. Viewers will watch the case unfold as a nurse takes the stand and the prosecution and defense present their arguments.

The mock was originally planned as an in-person event, but due to COVID-19, will now be held virtually. Magna Legal Services, an end-to-end litigation support company, will be contributing its expertise and resources to host the event live using its virtual platform. “The unforeseen pandemic has cancelled classes and disrupted education throughout the nation. We are proud to sponsor this event and help ensure the nurses of tomorrow are properly prepared for their careers and ready to start caring for their communities”, stated Peter Hecht, Magna Partner & EVP of Sales.

Fully understanding the legal implications of their practice is extremely important for healthcare workers. Because mock trials give invaluable insight into the legal aspects of nursing, Tarrant County College (TCC) would previously finance their students to attend mock trials hosted by other schools. To make this opportunity further accessible to all of their students, TCC decided to host their own annual mock trials, starting with the October 9th event.

Texas A&M University (TAMU) School of Law joined TCC in hosting the mock trial, contributing their resources, expertise and esteemed personnel. Their law students, specifically those interested in health law, are encouraged to attend the mock trial.

Jim Mullen, RN, JD will play the nurse on trial, prosecuted by Colleen Carboy, RN, JD and defended by Kathleen Kearney, RN, JD. Expert witnesses include Nancy Roper Wilson, RN, JD and Patricia Blair, RN, JD. Justice Lee Gabriel will preside over the mock.

Magna Legal Services has been hosting virtual mock trials for over a decade, with even greater popularity following the start of COVID-19. TCC’s mock trial will be held on the Magna LegalVision platform, with Magna’s trial presentation consultants managing exhibit display and annotations and handling back-end tech support.

“Whether it’s a trial, hearing, arbitration, mediation or deposition, the Magna LegalVision platform has the flexibility to mimic any in-person proceeding, except with all the added benefits of going virtual” said Andrew Lunanuova, Magna’s Director of Audio, Video and Virtual Services.

Hosting the event remotely will allow for social distancing and a larger audience capacity. Virtual proceedings also prove for increased viewer attention and understanding due to:

  • Greater exhibit visibility— All exhibits and demonstratives will be displayed directly in front of each attendee on their devices, ensuring they can see and hear everything. In contrast, exhibits for in-person trials are usually displayed on TVs and format boards, where distance and other factors can hinder visibility.
  • Enhanced annotation— Magna’s virtual platform allows for seamless, real-time annotating, like highlighting and blow-ups, which will improve viewer understanding.
  • Speaker view— The virtual platform allows each attendee to have a front-view of each speaker, rather than the side or back-view they would normally have at an in-person trial.
  • Speaker identification— Viewers can better follow along with the presentation because all speaker names are clearly visible throughout the event’s duration.

The Tarrant County College & Texas A&M University Law School mock trial plans to bring in over 500 attendees including first-year TCC nursing students, TCC faculty and TAMU students focusing on health law.

To learn more about virtual proceedings and mock trials, visit MagnaLS.com.

Trial Lawyers Strike Back as COVID-19 Fuels Litigation Support Innovation

As the COVID-19 pandemic began shuttering courthouses and law offices across the country, two attorneys who use the litigation management platform Litify told its chief revenue officer, Terry Dohrmann, that the company could become the legal industry’s Zoom—in reference to the video conferencing app that has become wildly popular as people across the globe practice social distancing.

The comments, Dohrmann said, got the company leaders thinking, “If we really are [the legal industry’s Zoom], then let’s act like it,” he said. And with that, the company began to develop its enhanced video conferencing program called Uplink, which launched recently.

The program is one of several litigation support applications and services that have been developed, tweaked or repackaged by litigation support companies in an effort to meet the growing and evolving demands of trial attorneys, as the coronavirus has forced the industry into a new normal.

On the firm side of things, Philadelphia attorney Kevin Marciano of Marciano & MacAvoy said that, as a personal injury lawyer, he rarely had to focus before on thoroughly tracking time, but, with his staff now working from home, he has begun asking employees to start filling out regular time sheets. And to make sure they stay focused on work-related tasks he also asked his workers to download software that keeps track of what they are doing online.

“It gives you some control,” Marciano said. “I actually think I’m going to use it when things get back to normal. You can’t be with someone all the time, but this gives them the ability to work independently.”

The stories illustrate a trend that attorneys and legal tech industry insiders are beginning to see, as the coronavirus is leading trial lawyers to experiment with new technologies and has fueled a wave of innovation from the litigation support industry. According to court watchers, these new trends will likely lead to lasting changes for the legal world once the pandemic subsides.

“COVID-19 is going to be the mother of all innovation,” Peter Hecht, executive vice president of sales at Magna Legal Services, said.

Evolving Demand

Along with a need for new technologies aimed at pushing cases forward in a virtual environment, the new environment has driven a need for technology that helps attorneys tackle the challenges of managing their workforce remotely.

Along with Marciano, several trial attorneys who spoke with The Legal said they have turned to management programs, such as ActivTrak, that allow firm leaders to closely monitor their employees’ online activity.

For Marciano, the technology has been a ”game-changer.”

According to Marciano, the program can tell how long a computer’s been idle, it can take screenshots of an employee’s computer every few minutes, and it can print out a pie chart of all the websites the staff has been on in a given day.

The program not only allowed his firm to keep an eye on their workers, but it also helped the employees adapt their work schedules to what made the most sense, given their family situation, he said.

“You have to be flexible,” Marciano said. “It’s hard, but people are adjusting.”

Philadelphia attorney Jon Ostroff of Ostroff Law said he has also been exploring ways to monitor his employees remotely, and has been using a Voice Over Internet Phone system as a way to keep his workers connected remotely. The system, which he said is more secure than Zoom, can allow staff to set up chatrooms for the various internal groups that need to stay in constant contact, such as pre-litigation paralegals. It has also helped the staff hold regular office-wide meetings, which he said is a big part of maintaining firm culture.

“We don’t want people to be isolated. Part of what works in our office is our culture,” he said.

Echoing sentiments expressed by others, Ostroff said he is exploring ways to allow his staff to continue working remotely, even after the pandemic has passed. Specifically, he said he was considering the idea of having work stations, which attorneys could use on the rotating basis, only coming into the office two or three days each week.

“We are so pleased with the way working remotely has gone, we’re not going to stop with this. We’re absolutely going to set up ourselves to be a virtual firm,” Ostroff said.

‘Something’s Going to Stick’

Magna Legal Services recently launched JuryConfirm 2020, which expands the company’s online capabilities for handling focus groups and mock trials, allowing for multi-day online sessions.

The program, which revamps the company’s existing JuryConfirm platform, was already in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but according to Hecht, the program dovetails perfectly into the shifting needs of the trial bar.

Along with the JuryConfirm2020 program, he said, the company is working to marry existing services with the trial bar’s emerging needs. For instance, he said the company has started offering expanded virtual deposition services, which include a jury consulting technician who can handle all the exhibits.

Several attorneys who spoke with The Legal said that one of the downsides of virtual depositions is that, with big files having to be sent beforehand, attorneys often lose the element of surprise. According to Hecht, the company’s newer services are aimed at addressing those concerns, among others, and with the programs becoming more like the live thing, attorneys are going to increasingly rely on these devices, growing the demand even further.

“I think the online deposition platforms are going to be here to stay. So many people are just naturally going to say, I want to do this one remotely,” Hecht said. “They’re going to have done this hundreds of times. It’s going to become natural.”

Dohrmann said his company has been almost busier than it was before COVID-19 hit.

Along with launching Uplink, the company also launched in recent weeks a condensed version of its cloud-based platform, called LitifyGo, which allows attorneys to access the system from anywhere, including a tablet or phone.

Attorneys, he said, are increasingly interested in finding easier ways to share documents, and to more seamlessly communicate with clients, so his company is finding new ways to use portals for document sharing and adding communication features so lawyers can do things like text directly from the Litify platform.

With so many court systems partially shut down and offering varying degrees of services, attorneys have also been struggling for weeks to stay on top of the ever-changing patchwork of delayed deadlines and filing procedures, and firm leaders, who used to get a feel for the firm’s caseload and progress by walking the halls, have also been looking for ways to keep a virtual eye on what’s coming in and what work is ending. Dohrmann said attorneys have been increasingly looking to online dashboards to help them tackle those problems as well.

“They’re looking for better ways to stay as close as they have been in the past, so it’s leveraging technology to do so,” he said. “Embracing technology, rethinking client communication, those are all definitely what we’re seeing.”

Since the shutdowns, the legal industry has faced unprecedented challenges, and there has been a lot of confusion. However, according to litigation tech insiders, one things is certain: the time is ripe for innovation.

“People are going to pop things out there,” Hecht said. “And something’s going to stick.”

This piece originally appeared in The Legal Intelligence on May 6, 2020.

Ultimate Guide to Jury Consulting

Magna Legal Services Acquires RecordTrak

PHILADELPHIA — Magna Legal Services, LLC has announced the acquisition of RecordTrak, Inc. in King of Prussia, PA. The transaction was completed on January 14, 2020. Magna Legal Services continues to expand support for its fastest growing service line, Record Retrieval, by acquiring one of the industry’s most respected and high-performing providers in the litigation support space.

RecordTrak was founded in 1981 by Martin Marshall. The company provides fast and reliable collection of medical and other records for law firms, insurance, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies, with facilities on both the east and west coasts. They specialize in single plaintiff to large multi-district litigation involving thousands of plaintiffs.

Martin Marshall and his management team, along with Jonathan Ackerman, Executive Vice President of Record Retrieval at Magna LS, will run the day-to-day operations and are excited about the combination of the two companies. “We are thrilled with the opportunity to partner with Magna Legal Services. This new relationship will enable RecordTrak to enhance our service offerings for our clients, while providing them with new opportunities to take advantage of a wide variety of end-to-end litigation support services supplied by Magna,” Marshall said.

Jonathan Ackerman added, “Magna and RecordTrak clients are the big winners in this merger. Both firms were founded upon a culture that the client comes first. The increased bandwidth, expertise, and innovation will quickly lead to an unrivaled client experience.”

Magna Legal Services CEO, Mark Williams, is excited about the addition of RecordTrak as well. “We are delighted to welcome the RecordTrak team to the Magna family,” Williams said. “Martin and his team have extensive industry experience and have created one of fastest growing companies in the record retrieval sector. Their success shows through their highly-positive customer reviews and ratings, as well as rapid growth over the past few years.”

Click here to review the record request form and learn more about the end-to-end litigation services provided by Magna Legal Services.

Questionnaire Aids Jury Selection in Newspaper Shooting Case

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The judge in the massacre of five Maryland newspaper employees gave 300 potential jurors a questionnaire Friday to try to whittle the jury pool in this close-knit community where most people feel connected to the case — an increasingly popular tactic in high-profile cases nationwide as courts move away from change-of-venue options, experts say.

In decades past, such trials were often moved to other communities, where courts could find potential jurors less familiar with the case. But the widespread nature of modern news has made that less effective. In Maryland, many people across the country know about the case against Jarrod Ramos, who faces numerous charges, including first-degree murder, in last year’s shooting at the Capital Gazette.

“Courts view modern media as negating the value of moving the trial,” said Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington Law School. “It’s become more important to isolate any possible areas of potential conflict or bias in the jurors.”

Judge Laura Ripken wrote the questionnaire after considering questions from defense attorneys and prosecutors.

In this case, the objective isn’t necessarily to find jurors who’ve never heard of the case, but to narrow the pool to those who neither knew the victims nor have deep-seated views about a suspect’s guilt or innocence.

“I think the judge, rightfully so, foresees that many people that would be called for jury duty in this case will have heard of the incident and will likely have some very strong opinions about the incident in particular,” said Rachel York Colangelo, the national managing director of jury consulting at Philadelphia-based Magna Legal Services.

Crucial questions will be whether any of the prospective jurors know any of the victims. Asking each potential juror about that issue in court can be time-consuming, Turley said.

While knowledge of the June 2018 shooting certainly won’t make someone ineligible to serve on the jury, the judge and attorneys will be focusing on whether a potential juror is willing to listen to the evidence and has not made up his or her mind as to guilt or innocence.

Turley, a practicing criminal defense attorney, said a prospective juror who claims to have no knowledge of the shooting probably would not be wanted for the jury, anyway.

“I would be a tad suspicious about the veracity or normalcy of a juror who lives in an area and is entirely unaware of a horrendous massacre, particularly in such a small town,” Turley said. “You want to have someone who is well-adjusted and reasonable on the jury.”

The questionnaire will give attorneys on both sides an early start in considering prospective jurors who can weigh the evidence impartially, more than a month before three days of jury selection begin Oct. 30.

“This just strikes me as a more efficient way to deal with the problem of making that sort of big first cut with a jury pool that is bound to be compromised, simply because of the high-profile nature of the case,” said David Gray, a University of Maryland law professor who teaches criminal law and criminal procedure.

Ramos, 39, had a long history of harassing the newspaper’s journalists. He sued the newspaper in 2012, alleging he was defamed in an article about his conviction in a criminal harassment case in 2011. The suit was dismissed as groundless and Ramos railed against the newspaper staff on Twitter.

Authorities say he blasted his way into the Capital Gazette newsroom with a shotgun on June 28, 2018, killing John McNamara, Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, Gerald Fischman and Rob Hiaasen. Police say Ramos was arrested hiding under a newsroom desk.

Ramos has pleaded not guilty and not criminally responsible, Maryland’s version of the insanity defense.

More than 1,000 people streamed through Maryland’s capital during a candlelit march a day after the attack.

This piece originally appeared in Associated Press News on September 27, 2019.

Ultimate Guide to Jury Consulting

As Big Verdicts Pile Up, Attorneys Are Increasingly Turning to Mock Trials, Focus Groups

Attorneys in recent years have increased their use of jury consulting services and focus groups, a trend that some Philadelphia-area court watchers see as driven by the growth of so-called “nuclear” verdicts, where a plaintiff is awarded hundreds of millions, or sometimes even billions, over personal injury claims.

“A lot of people are looking at these claims and saying, ‘This is a bad one. What can we do to avoid these surprises?’” said Rachel York Colangelo, the national managing director of jury consulting at Philadelphia-based Magna Legal Services. “There’s no need to be surprised.”

According to Colangelo and numerous civil attorneys, lawyers on both sides have been increasingly using jury consulting services, including mock trials, targeted questionnaires and focus groups, both online and in person. Attorneys have also reportedly been using the services earlier in the life of a case to help both with settlement talks and development of trial strategies.

Or, in the case of the defendants and carriers, to help get a grip as even the more run-of-the-mill verdicts are beginning to creep upward.

“It seems like a lot of those types of clients are saying something’s going on right now with more and more of these nuclear, outrageous verdicts,” Colangelo said.

The most obvious verdicts that come to mind are in the products liability arena, where a Texas jury last year awarded $4.7 billion to 22 plaintiffs injured by talcum powder, and where, in May, a California jury hit Monsanto with a $2 billion verdict over its weedkiller Roundup—a verdict that was later slashed to $86 million. However, according to Colangelo and others, defendants are also increasingly being surprised in smaller, more routine cases—in particular in trucking litigation—and so they have been increasingly turning to jury consulting services, like those provided by Magna.

Ricci Tyrrell Johnson & Grey attorney William Ricci, who focuses on products liability defense work, said he has noticed that excess carriers and self-insured defendants have increasingly been requesting attorneys perform mock trials, especially when facing a catastrophic injury case. He agreed that a “spike” in big-money verdicts appears to be fueling the trend.

“If you have an eight-figure demand in a catastrophic case in a city like Philadelphia, and it’s not the type of case you’ve been dealing with, there’s much more of a likelihood where the client, or the excess carrier, or both, will say, ‘Let’s consider getting a focus group,’” Ricci said.

Theodore Schaer of Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer Toddy, who handles cyber liability, as well as products liability and trucking litigation cases, said that, with an increasing number of high-profile verdicts, defendants are eager to confirm their valuation of a case, so they can make a more informed decision about whether to take the suit to trial.

“The more information you have, the better,” Schaer said. “There are always outlier juries, and that’s the risk of going to trial. But I think that, certainly on the defense side, over the last couple of years, some of these astronomical verdicts have led professionals to really use all the tools in their arsenal.”

Along with the more traditional mock trial services, attorneys are increasingly holding focus groups and even using geographically and demographically targeted surveys to help with everything from valuation to trial strategies. These more piecemeal evaluations of cases, if done early enough, can even help attorneys hone in on evidence and theories while discovery is ongoing.

Colangelo said mock trials and focus groups, which used to always be done in rented conference spaces, can now be handled online, where mock jurors are streamed live exhibits and participants can interact with each other through interactive multimedia platforms. Attorneys have also increasingly been using online surveys, she said, where as many as 100 people from a given venue are given prerecorded narratives about a trial, and then asked to answer a series of questions.

“It’s just we’re not looking at jurors through a one-way mirror. We’re observing them online,” Colangelo said. “The feedback is very similar. The deliberations are just as robust.”

Those technological developments have also allowed jury consulting companies like Magna to provide the services for a much smaller fee, which has further fueled the trend.

Although plaintiffs firms are not subject to the same pressures as the defense bar, personal injury attorneys are also increasingly using mock trial and focus groups.

Plaintiffs attorneys said that, while they use consulting companies like Magna to perform more formalized mock trials and focus groups, they typically only use those services for bigger cases because of their costs.

However, numerous plaintiffs attorneys said they are increasingly putting on their own focus groups.

McLaughlin & Lauricella attorney Slade McLaughlin said he uses focus groups in any case where alcohol might be involved, or if there are serious questions of comparative negligence. Attorneys noted they sometimes perform focus groups on a single issue or piece of evidence in a case, and may perform multiple focus groups on a single case.

“What it does is it opened my eyes up to issues I didn’t even know were there,” McLaughlin said, noting that in one case that resulted in a $20 million award, he got the idea to ask for punitive damages after a focus group suggested that the defendant’s conduct had been “outrageous.”

“Lawyers look at a case one way, and lay people look at cases another,” he said.

These focus groups, according to attorneys, often involve renting out a conference room, putting an ad in the paper for prospective mock jurors, providing catered lunches and paying the jurors. Ostroff Injury Law attorney Jon Ostroff said he often does it under the guise of a psychological study so the mock jurors are not swayed by the fact that the attorneys arguing the issues are also paying for the event.

He said he uses them to help guide in the development of the case, giving a brain injury case as an example.

“We might get caught up in the cognitive deficits, but it might be something more subtle that would matter to a jury,” Ostroff said. “Sometimes the loss of life’s pleasures can be more impactful.”

Carol Shelly of Shelly Law Offices in Doylestown said she does a focus group session at least once a month, where sometimes issues from multiple cases are heard. Shelly added she likes to do focus groups early on in a case, even before taking key depositions.

“It makes me understand my cases better. It makes me prepare them earlier than I would otherwise. It makes me see the pitfalls in my case early,” Shelly said. “It’s hard work, but it’s done nothing but made me a better lawyer.”

Attorneys from both sides also stressed a renewed need to understand potential jurors as the new generation of millennials have begun to take more and more seats in the jury box.

“Jurors are different than they were 10 to 20 years ago,” Shelly said. “What they think is important is not necessarily what I think is important.”

This piece originally appeared in The Legal Intelligence on August 27, 2019.

Ultimate Guide to Jury Consulting

Nuclear Verdicts Have the Board on Edge? Jury Consulting Can Help Level the Legal Playing Field

How do human emotions play a role in decision making? That’s a hot-button question vexing board room executives that are facing steep jury verdicts.

Described as “nuclear,” jury awards are reaching into the tens of millions — and even billions — of dollars, particularly in cases where that human contemplative decision making is prevalent. That is because humans are the only decision makers who can act based on emotion — emotions that can often amplify the after-effects.

Such a decision was exemplified in an Oklahoma courtroom last month.

A single-judge court hit Johnson & Johnson with a nuclear verdict in which they were ordered to pay $572 million to the state for their contribution to the opioid crisis. The epidemic has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 Americans since 2000.

Family members of opioid overdose victims embraced the ruling in hopes that the decision would prevent others from succumbing to the drug in the future.

“It’s kind of punitive in a way, because for the most part, it’s to compensate the municipality for having to support these people for their addictions and their habits,” said Tanya Branch, partner at Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A. of the Oklahoma verdict.

“This is what happens when the theme is corporate greed and raking in huge profits at the expense of everyday people. On the other hand, you could say that the defense attorneys did an excellent job keeping the numbers in check, considering the state claimed damages in excess of $17 billion for what will essentially be the state’s ‘clean-up’ costs, for addiction programs and related funding,” she said.

“Unless dealt with in jury selection by experienced, battle-tested defense attorneys, drug companies may be faced with these types of outcomes nationally.”

The national outcomes that Branch is referring to include 2,000 other claims filed against Johnson & Johnson. The conglomerate’s boardroom is likely in a frenzy, now rushing to see exactly how much liability they might be held accountable for.

“We have a huge conglomerate that has been engaging in allegedly bad behavior,”said Rachel York Colangelo, managing director of jury consulting for Magna Legal Services. “But like in the opioid cases, there are so many they are involved in around the country that if they went around and just settled all of them, that’s a huge payout.

“That’s the gamble that these companies take. We have a lot of people say after cases like this, ‘How did they ever think they were going to win?’ ” said York Colangelo.

“My response is that they didn’t expect to win that case. But they needed to find out, ‘How bad could it be?’”

In a rising number of cases, the answer to that question: Nuclear.

So What Makes a Verdict ‘Nuclear?’

A nuclear verdict is an award that consists of $10 million or more — depending on the size of the company, it could be less — that results in extreme loss to the debtor.

Johnson & Johnson is a major corporation that can afford the verdict that was issued, but for other companies, gray areas of liability present major risks and have led to a rising number of these nuclear jury awards.

“Most of the time, even if the injury is not catastrophic, the verdict can be,” said Branch, speaking from the defensive perspective of these large municipalities.

One of the reasons for the increase in nuclear jury awards is the connotation that the public has regarding large corporations, as well as the idea that verdicts should sustain the plaintiff for the remainder of their lives and provide monetary consumption for suffering.

“A lot of jurors see the defendant as having a deep pocket, otherwise, why would they be sued?” said Branch.

“If a juror sees your client as a deep pocket, they’re not going give you a fair shot at defending the case.”

For smaller companies that do not have as much monetary backing, mitigating the risk of nuclear verdicts is imperative, otherwise, their entire operation could implode.

That’s where jury consulting comes in, working to minimize the risk and level the legal playing field.

Early Intervention is Key

For trials like that in Oklahoma where there’s an element of human loss or suffering, companies must perfect their strategies in order to sway the jury towards the defense…and pick the right jurors.

If a case is headed for trial and the possibility of a nuclear verdict looms, jury consultants can often convince companies to accept responsibility without liability.

This way, the defendant can soften the jury with their admission of their wrongdoings but still defend their case and weaken their punishment.

“Most of the time, even if the injury is not catastrophic, the verdict can be,” said Branch, speaking from the defensive perspective of these large municipalities.

One of the reasons for the increase in nuclear jury awards is the connotation that the public has regarding large corporations, as well as the idea that verdicts should sustain the plaintiff for the remainder of their lives and provide monetary consumption for suffering.

“A lot of jurors see the defendant as having a deep pocket, otherwise, why would they be sued?” said Branch.

“If a juror sees your client as a deep pocket, they’re not going give you a fair shot at defending the case.”

“Everyone assumes you get called in for trial and that we just come in and pick the jury. There’s a lot that goes into consulting before you ever get to that point,” said Colangelo.

Know Your Crowd

Some of the services jury consultants can provide before the trial include mock trials, focus groups, surveys and jury selection.

According to Branch, picking the right jury helps to attain the desired outcome.

“You have to have a very clear understanding of the type of jury you’re looking for,” she said.

“While you expect people to be fair and impartial, a lot of people have certain biases that if you don’t get those out of them, they’re not going to tell you. It’s your job as the attorney to figure out which juror isn’t being completely truthful about their history and their background.”

Because “judges are human, too,” as Colangelo explained, even perfect jury consulting can’t completely eliminate the risk of nuclear verdict awards. The outcome of a trial can be shocking to even those who contributed to the guilty decision.

“Juries typically don’t expect nuclear verdicts,” said Branch, who says that sometimes the number of a monetary award can increase excessively depending on the age and injuries of the plaintiff.

But, like other decisions made from human emotion, some jury-awarded verdicts can turn out to be presumptuous, tentative or downright wrong.

Regardless of who is truly liable in a case, jury consulting proves that evidence is only as powerful as its presentation, and its delivery can be what disarms or detonates a legal bomb.

This piece originally appeared on Risk & Insurance on September 13, 2019.

Ultimate Guide to Jury Consulting