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The Domino Theory (Second Edition) by Edward P. Capozzi

Reviewed by Colton Gregory

Originally published in the Winter 2022 of ATLA Docketa quarterly publication from the Arkansas Trial Lawyer Association

Games are an important part of our society and something that anyone can identify with on some level.  Their enjoyment spans across all ages and genders, as well as across all physical and intellectual abilities.  Some people enjoy sports, while others prefer video games. We have seen the rise in popularity of the “escape room,” as well as the resurgence of board and card games.  The hugely popular Netflix show Squid Game has even put a sinister spin on some of the playground games we used to enjoy as children.  In the book The Domino Theory, Edward Capozzi “gamifies” the trial for the jury by taking the classic domino and using it to help the jury effectively understand the complex legal issue of proximate cause.

After going through extensive legal education, passing the bar, and learning how to try cases, it’s no surprise to any attorney that learning and understanding the law is no easy feat.  Being able to then convey these complicated legal concepts to a group of people untrained in the law, while at the same time not letting that distract from proving the rest of your case, can seem daunting at times.  The Domino Theory seeks to simplify the process by giving you a visual that both helps explain proximate cause and walks the jury through your case from beginning to end.  The dominoes in this book are quite literal and represent various elements of your case that, when placed in a line and subsequently knocked down, bring the jury to the conclusion that the only logical verdict is one for the Plaintiff.  In his forward to the book, David Ball says it best: “It’s hard to look away.  It’s hard not to hope they fall.” 

The bulk of The Domino Theory chapters discuss the various aspects of the litigation process and how Capozzi attacks each aspect of the case.  Each chapter is relatively short and does not get into the weeds on any one particular topic, but what stands out are the different ways that each topic is ultimately presented at trial.  One interesting portion is Capozzi’s equating of a doctor’s diagnosis to a puzzle.  This puzzle consists of four parts: patient history, complaints and symptoms, diagnostic test results, and physical examination findings.  Capozzi uses this in the context of defeating defense medical examinations.  He states that these doctors largely ignore pieces of the puzzle provided by the facts and plaintiff’s prior treatment in favor of their own physical exam findings.  As with the Domino Theory itself, Capozzi uses the puzzle as another familiar game to help juries work through this concept with which they would not otherwise be familiar.  Ordinary people can identify with the assembly of a puzzle.  A lot of people have also experienced the frustration of getting to the end of a puzzle only to realize that there is a missing piece.  This is beneficial to the plaintiff’s case because people understand that all the pieces of a puzzle have to be there for the picture to be completely clear.

Throughout the book, Capozzi touches on many aspects of the pre-trial and trial process, providing insight into how he tries cases and giving practitioners ideas on ways to help juries better understand why the evidence shows a verdict for the Plaintiff is the right decision.  These chapters largely draw from the classic low impact car wreck involving soft tissue injuries, with Capozzi using transcripts from his own cases to show his methods at work.  Because this book centers around the issue of proximate cause, Capozzi spends a lot of time on how to handle the Plaintiff’s treating physicians and the defense’s medical experts at trial, which provides a lot of useful information for practitioners to use to help bolster their clients’ cases.  One of the boldest assertions Capozzi makes in the book, however, is that in addition to helping prove the plaintiff’s case, the domino demonstration is also helpful in disproving the defense’s case.

As discussed earlier, each domino in the domino demonstration represents an important element of the case.  In a lot of cases, pre-existing degeneration is present and becomes a hurdle that must be overcome to show that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s damages and not the degeneration.  In these cases, the first domino represents degeneration, then the second and third represent negligence and the collision, respectively.  If you remove the negligence and collision dominos and then try to knock over the degeneration domino, it falls without hitting any of the others down the line.  This helps illustrate to the jury that without the defendant’s negligence and the wreck, the degeneration would not have led to the other dominos.  It would not have led to the onset of pain that caused the plaintiff to go to the emergency room, it would not have led to the need for additional treatment, and it would not have led to the pain and suffering the plaintiff endured as a result of the wreck.  This is just another example of how the dominos help to simplify things for the jury.

Coming in at 454 pages, The Domino Theory packs a lot into its pages.  Capozzi manages to cover a wide range of topics, but still makes the book accessible by providing bullet point summaries at the end of each chapter to help when you need to go back and reference something quickly.  This book does a great job at getting you excited about trying cases, but a lot of what Capozzi does to prove his cases comes with a hefty price tag.  Having a myriad of doctors and other experts testify would be great in a perfect world, but the reality of smaller cases can make these things cost prohibitive.  Even though a lot of what Capozzi does may only work in higher value cases, the principles of the book can still be used in every case.  Overall, The Domino Theory is a worthwhile read and provides an interesting tool to add to your tool belt for trying cases.

 

The Domino Theory Second Edition by Edward P. Capozzi

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