$20 million verdict obtained using Show the Story
Posted by Alex Miller on Feb 28, 2012
Trial Success Story for "Show the Story" from Troy D. Chandler
I am an attorney in Texas and I cannot speak highly enough of your recent publication Show the Story by William and Robert Bailey. I just used the visual strategies outlined in this book to win a unanimous jury verdict of $20 million in Houston, Texas. This verdict was TWICE what we asked for throughout voir dire and all the way through closing arguments.
In this era of tort reform and negative jury bias, how can you explain such a result especially when this case had its problems and challenges? The explanation for this result I believe can be found in the visual techniques described in Show the Story, a book that shows attorneys how to reach the decision maker on an emotional level where decisions are often made.
This particular case involved a property management company that failed to inform the residents of an apartment complex that a sexual predator had attacked two other women living on the premises. As a result, my client, a professional workingwoman who lived by herself, was repeatedly raped for 12 hours in her apartment.
One of the challenges I faced in presenting this case was how to show the liability story so the jury would find fault with the management company and not the rapist. Another challenge I had to overcome was how to present the damages story of what my client experienced emotionally both during and after the assault.
After reading Show the Story, I consulted with co-author Robert Bailey, who is a 20-year trial consultant specializing in visual communication and story development. He helped me think about my case more creatively and showed me how to bring it to life visually using the techniques described in Show the Story. As a result, I developed the liability story of my case in an entirely different way than I was accustomed. Instead of relying primarily on words and documents, I used a visual documentary style of presentation.
To accomplish this, I utilized a combination of photographs, documents and graphics in a specific sequence to show the jury the case theme, the settings where events took place, the rules that needed to be followed, the places where defendants made decisions to break the rules and the tragic events that resulted as a result of the defendant’s decisions. This unique style of showing the story helped jurors to focus on the actions of the defendant and not the rapist, which was one of my big concerns about liability. Then came the challenge of how to show the damages.
I had struggled with the idea of ever being able to share the emotions my client must have been experiencing, and how to communicate those emotions to twelve strangers who would be sitting in constant judgment of her and the case. I knew the facts but I was challenged as to how to show these facts and move the jury emotionally.
To solve these challenges, I once again relied on the visual techniques described in Show the Story, as well as the expertise of its co-author, Robert Bailey. Let me give a simple example of how visuals were used to present the damages story.
To show the rape scene, Robert recommended that my investigator go back to the apartment complex and reshoot exterior photos of my client’s apartment at night. He explained that the photos taken of the apartment interior were not useable to present the story because they were taken during the daytime and did not convey the horror of what had happened under the cloak of darkness. He further explained that the nighttime photos of the apartment exterior that we had previously taken were not the best camera angle because they did not include the window of her bedroom. As a result, I had my investigator go back to the apartment and obtain different photos.
To show the damages story in opening, he selected one of these exterior nighttime photos to establish what my client’s second floor balcony and bedroom windows looked like as she arrived home. He then cropped this same photo to create a new photo that showed her balcony door and darkened windows close up. This close up became the master shot I used to project on the screen while I told the jury the story of what was happening inside the night of the rape. The combination of these cinematic strategies and the story of what was happening inside proved extremely powerful and effective, especially since this part of the story was immediately preceded by the visual story of management’s decisions not to inform the residents about the two prior assaults.
Utilizing the same visual strategies described in the book, I then presented my client’s damages story through moving imagery, powerful sequencing, and unspoken communication, breaking through the normal accounting of facts, and grabbing hold of the visual drama that brought to life my client’s emotional story. The evidence laid itself out in such a powerful fashion that the jury was left with no other choice but to find fault with the defendant.
The result: the jury awarded plaintiff $20 million dollars, twice the amount we were asking ($7 million for past mental anguish and physical suffering, $5 million for future suffering and $8 million for the conduct of the apartment owners). The jury foreperson said to all assembled lawyers, "We would have given you even more if you would have asked for it." Even the bailiff of twenty years who has seen hundreds of trials said, "This was the best opening I have ever seen."
This is the power of Show the Story. Never did I dream a jury would be so moved by the visual strategies described in this book. Neither did I dream the jury would render a verdict of double what we were asking. As far as I am concerned, this case was won in the opening statement using the strategies of this great book and the work of its co-author Robert Bailey.
I can’t thank Trial Guides enough for publishing this book. The strategies it describes made a big difference in the outcome for my client and it has forever changed the way that I will present cases in the future. Thank you Trial Guides. You’ve got a winner!