Congratulations to attorneys Rich Cook, Bryan Tisch, and Brandon Yosha on their recent $12.2 million verdict in Indianapolis, Indiana. Brandon Yosha covered the opening statement, the final argument on damages, and did the direct examination of the plaintiff’s wife. Brandon’s father, trial lawyer Louis Yosha, helped formulate the argument Brandon used in closing. Bryan Tisch covered the opening statement on liability, the plaintiff’s direct examination, and the expert witness’s direct examination. Rich Cook handled voir dire, the cross-examination of all of IPL’s witnesses, and the final argument on liability.
The plaintiff is currently forty-six years old and has been under continuous medical care and pain management since he was shocked by thousands of volts of electricity on IPL’s Petersburg Power Plant on March 6, 2014. The plaintiff worked as a contractor for Sterling Boiler Mechanical Inc. and was employed with them and worked on the Petersburg plant for years.
During mediation, IPL’s counsel offered $50,000. IPL’s counsel never once indicated they would entertain a seven-figure settlement. On the eve of trial, IPL offered $500,000. The plaintiff's counsel refused to respond.
The plaintiff’s attorneys credited a combination of techniques they used during trial for their win. Brandon Yosha had developed a relationship with Nick Rowley and reached out to him for guidance. Nick’s team flew to Indianapolis to personally meet with the plaintiff and Nick personally critiqued their focus group for mini-opening statements and provided feedback. He helped Brandon prepare both his opening statement and his final argument on damages. Brandon had only been admitted for five weeks, but Nick had tremendous confidence that Brandon could deliver full justice for the plaintiff. One of Nick’s partners, Jakob Norman, helped Brandon prepare for the opening statement and his direct examination of the plaintiff’s wife and even played the role of defense counsel to help prepare for IPL’s cross-examination of her.
Rich Cook credited techniques he learned from Keith Mitnik’s book, Don't Eat the Bruises. Using the strategies he learned, Rich handled the defense’s arguments in the opening statement before they were able to address the jury and posit frivolous defenses in the jurors’ minds without placing them in the proper context.
For damages, Nick Rowley’s team recommended using an analogy of the plaintiff being approached by a man with a briefcase who offers him a comparable verdict amount before he’s shocked on March 6, 2014, an offer the plaintiff refuses. If the plaintiff refused the offer from the man with the briefcase the day before his injury, why would $30 million be an unreasonable amount? The man with the briefcase offered him $30 million dollars, but the plaintiff had to agree to live with chronic pain, permanent tinnitus, and other severe issues. His wife would have to take him to three hundred doctor appointments over the next six years. The plaintiff would obviously have said no to the money and would rather have his health back.
During the final argument, the plaintiff’s counsel also explained to the jury that verdicts are not large or small; they are only just or unjust. And it would be a grave injustice to not fully and adequately compensate their clients for what they have gone through and will continue to go through for the rest of their lives.
Trying the case during a pandemic also presented its challenges and uncertainties. First, there was always the uncertainty of being shut down in the middle of trial or that someone might contract COVID-19. Everyone in the courtroom wore a mask for the entire two-week trial. At least thirteen jurors were dismissed for cause. The jury was not seated in the typical jury box and had to sit in comfortable seats in the spectator area, all socially distanced from one another.
The jury box was used as a witness stand. Everyone in the courtroom had to have a mask on at all times. And because of the mandatory mask-wearing, the plaintiff's counsel had no idea how to read the jury. The judge allowed sufficient time for voir dire and opening statements. The plaintiff’s counsel used two hours for voir dire and one hour and twenty minutes for their opening statement. They also used one hour and thirty minutes for their final argument.
The plaintiff could not sit for prolonged periods and he stood for 80 percent of his testimony, which took most of an afternoon. The plaintiff’s counsel felt that bringing their witnesses into the full view of the jury was beneficial as the jurors were seated so far away, and they wanted them to have an adequate view and be able to hear the testimony.
The total damages amount was $19,825,000 for the plaintiff, which was reduced to $11,895,000 because of a 40 percent liability reduction (30 percent fault was found against Sterling Boiler and 10 percent fault was found against the plaintiff). The total damages amount was $500,000 for the plaintiff’s wife’s loss of consortium claim, which was reduced to $300,000 because of the 40 percent fault reduction. The total verdict amount for the plaintiffs was $12.2 million.
Don't Eat the Bruises by Keith Mitnik
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