Posted by John Ager on 18 April 2014.
My partner is currently involved in a three week medical malpractice trial in Globe, Arizona. It has been more than a year since our firm was in trial and it reminded me of just how difficult and stressful trying a case, especially a plaintiffs medical malpractice case, can be. Plaintiffs medical malpractice cases are among the most difficult cases to prosecute for all of the reasons we regularly discuss on this blog. Going to trial is even tougher for most of the same reasons.
That’s because plaintiffs have the burden of proof at trial. That means they have to prove they are right and the defense is wrong. The defense on the other hand generally doesn’t need to prove anything. They don’t need to prove they did not malpractice only that the plaintiff did not meet the burden of proof. This can especially difficult with a skeptical jury pool, like the one we have here in Arizona.
So what does trying a medical malpractice case involve? Preparation, preparation and more preparation. Cliche? Maybe. Necessary? Without question. After litigating for over a year, my partner began spending the majority of his time preparing about six weeks before the first trial day. That includes responding to a myriad of motions, drafting jury instructions, preparing exhibits, reviewing thousands of pages of documents and deposition transcripts, meeting with and planning the trial examinations of about 20 expert and lay witnesses, working with the electronic presentation software.
When all of that is done, and it really never is, you must weave everything together seamlessly to make the case easy for the jury to understand. Those folks take their work seriously and work as hard as anyone. Its important to respect their time and effort by not needlessly wasting either and by presenting the case in a way that will keep them engaged. Listening critically to medical testimony for hours on end can be one of the hazards of the job and is not easy for anyone.
A trial day is grueling. It often begins before you wake up because you will inevitabley dream about the case, what can go wrong and what you need to do. It ends late in the evening after you have completed preparing the witnesses you intend to call the following day. And, there is little time for much of anything in between. Mental toughness is a must and extreme focus is the rule. One misstep can cause huge problems both right away and well down the road. Trying a case out of town, even if it’s only a few hours away, also comes with its own set of logistical, physical and emotional challenges. Coming home at the end of a long week, if you can, is a special treat.
Trial can be even more grueling for our clients than it is for anyone. This is their one chance. They have been living the litigation nightmare under sever stress for a long time. Sitting in a court room under the watchful eyes of the jury day after day is no easy task, especially when it requires them to relive the death of a loved one over and over while listening to defense witnesses talk about how it was all someone else’s fault.
So here’s to my partner and the hard work he’s been doing these past few months. Hopefully, he’ll be able to get some justice for our clients who truly need and deserve the help.