Krogh & Decker, LLP prevailed in its first civil jury trial in May 2015. Our firm represented the defense in the case known as Trivedi, et. al. v. Burmeister, et. al., Placer County Superior Court Case No. SCV 0031676. The matter was tried over 7 days and ended in a 12-0 verdict in favor of defense on all counts. Shawn M. Krogh was the lead trial attorney for the defense. However, the victory was a complete team effort.
The lawsuit could be generally described as a partnership dispute with allegations of fraud. However, the crux of the dispute concerned whether or not a partnership was ever formed between the plaintiffs and defendants. On the defense, we argued that the parties engaged in a contractor-subcontractor relationship. Ultimately, the jury agreed with us and decided that no partnership was ever formed and that no fraudulent representations were made.
What are the key items to take-away from the trial? Glad you asked:
Document your relationships: The entire trial could have been avoided had the parties properly documented their relationship. On the defense, we contended it was a contractor-subcontractor relationship. If there were a written agreement in place, there would have been no question that it was a contractor-subcontractor relationship. However, people who start out as friends do not always document their relationships.
Have good facts: In order to win a trial, you need to have the facts in your favor. Despite, not having a written agreement that clearly spelled out that the parties were contractor-subcontractor, we had the facts showing that the parties previously acted as contractor and subcontractor. While lawyers do not make up the facts, the lawyers are responsible for getting the facts in discovery and then presenting them to the jury in trial.
Pick a good jury and respect their time: So much is riding on twelve people who know nothing about your case and “picking” a jury is a bit of a misnomer. Your goal is really to eliminate those people who will not be sympathetic to your position. Once you have a jury, respect their time and move through your case efficiently. Remember, they are missing work and taking time away from their family to make a determination on your client’s problem.
Be prepared to work hard. Trial is a lot of work. Lawyers for both sides will be up at all hours of the night drafting briefs for the judge, arguing about instructions for the jury, and preparing for witnesses. And, in the morning they will be expected to be at their best and present their client’s case.
Stay out of the way. The witnesses and the key facts of the case should get all the attention. Attorneys, for the most part, should stay out of the way while quietly orchestrating the case. Again, every moment that you spend on your case, you are taking the jury from their daily lives. So, make what you have to say mean something and let the jury hear the facts and see your client’s earnestness.