Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Technology & Effect on Jurors

New concerns have risen for trial attorneys in this high tech Facebook age. At the office, in the car or anywhere else, we share every detail of our daily existence in real time on Facebook. Most of the time, this is acceptable; however there is a new epidemic of posting jurors opinions on Facebook before the case is over.
Recently, a Michigan juror was fined for posting how it was "gonna be fun to tell the defendant they're GUILTY."  Also, a New York juror was found to have “friended” a key witness to a trial causing the judge to order a mistrial.  An Arkansas jury used his cell phone to update his Twitter during court proceedings stating that “he just have away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of someone else’s money.”  
Modern social networks are a new courtroom reality and challenge for attorneys. New model jury instructions must include details explicitly instructing jurors not to communicate with anyone about the case, including via cell phone, email, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, or any other social network.  Jurors will now need to be probed during voir dire on their Facebook and Twitter use, jurors should be monitored during the trial, and judges should be asked to remind jurors to report fellow juror’s misconduct should a juror fail to follow the court’s ban on communicating with others about the case.
It is mandatory for all my case preparation to include an search for the claimant or witness on the different social networks.  Now, this information is just as important from the jurors and can shape how I present my case. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Golf Cart Rollover

One of the first trials I participated in was a golf cart rollover case that went to trial many years ago.  It pitted golfing buddy against golfing buddy.  The saddest part of the case was that the plaintiff truly was injured.  He required back surgery and was in continuous pain. 

The allegation was made that my client, the driver of the golf cart, failed to utilize engine braking while going down a steep hill that had a sharp curve in the middle of it.  The plaintiff was in the passenger seat. As they went downhill, the golf cart built up too much speed and applying the brakes only resulted in a loss of traction as they approached the curve quickly.  Faced with going off a cliff and certain severe injury for both, or taking the turn too fast and risking a rollover in a flat area, my client choose to turn into the curve.  The result was a rollover of the golf cart that didn't injure my client, but caused severe injury to the plaintiff. 

I was working for USAA in their staff counsel office at the time.  My client had both an auto policy and umbrella policy with USAA.  Coverage would have clearly been offered under the umbrella policy for this lawsuit, but there was a question as to whether or not his auto policy would provide coverage for the lawsuit.  My client was provided a defense in the matter, and we tried the case.  The jury felt this was an accident that involved no one's negligence, and the Plaintiff recovered nothing.

Had my client not had an umbrella policy, he may have been in a fight, not only with his golfing buddy, but with his insurer regarding coverage and defense of the matter.  He had the umbrella policy and there was no fight regarding coverage.  Most people don't understand what an umbrella policy will cover and why they would need one.  I recommend this type of policy to all my clients.  The cost is generally minimal (under $200 or $300 a year for $1 million) and the benefit is tremendous in that it will cover most things (excluding intentional acts) not covered under an auto or homeowner policy.  Consider it if you can afford it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

First Post

Welcome to the inaugural post of the Paul Garcia & Associates Legal-ease blog.

Thank you so much for visiting.  I hope to provide you with timely, pertinent information regarding the legal world and how it affects you and your business.  Because our client base is so diverse the postings will be both general and specific to different industries.  I hope that the information will be helpful, thought provoking and pertinent.

We also plan on providing information regarding some of the firm's accomplishments.  Please, always feel free to contact us directly at the following contact address:

Paul Garcia & Associates
4801 N.W. Loop 410
Suite 525
San Antonio, Texas  78229
210-340-4073 (fax)

As always, we strive to provide "Innovative Legal Solutions for Your Business"