In 2009, two prominent trial attorneys introduced a litigation tactic known as the “reptile theory,” a strategy that aims to stoke fear and anger in the minds of jurors and, ultimately, compel them to hand down massive verdicts in civil lawsuits. In trucking accident lawsuits, it’s a method plaintiff lawyers have deployed in pursuit of so-called “nuclear” jury verdicts, those resulting in judgments of $10 million or more against motor carriers.

“In trucking cases, the reptile strategy is almost a given,” Dr. Rachel York Colangelo, Magna’s National Managing Director of Jury Consulting, told Transport Topics. “And it’s been very effective with jurors.”

She added, “There are buzzwords that will be coming in cases that will always be a red flag — words like ‘safety,’ ‘training,’ ‘community,’ ‘accountability.’ They let you know that the plaintiff attorney is headed down the reptile road.”

On that road, they’ll typically examine not just the accident, but also a carrier’s safety profiles and procedures, ranging from driver hiring, training and supervision to truck maintenance and use of motor carrier data.

Click here to read the full Transport Topics article, originally published on 1/19/2021.