Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pannu v. Land Rover North America (Cal. Ct. App. - Jan. 19, 2011)

You're a large corporation.  You lose a big personal injury trial.  Like $21.5+ million big.  You want to take a shot with the California Court of Appeal.  What do you do?

You could have your trial counsel do it.  They know the case pretty well, after all.  But you want a fresh set of eyes.  Plus some special appellate skill.  Maybe even a "name" to get the Court's attention.  Plus, your trial counsel lost big.  Maybe time for someone new.

What's the "safest" approach?  Hire a well-known appellate lawyer.  Big firm.  Other big cases.  No one will complain about your choice.  Will cost you a huge chunk of change.  But you'll have the "best".

Like here.  The folks at Land Rover hire Ted Boutrous of Gibson Dunn to prosecute their appeal.  Now we'll really go at 'em, eh?

For naught.  Plaintiff prevails in the Court of Appeal as well.  Even adding a shot at your fancy lawyer. ("Land Rover's argument is predicated on a distortion of the record.")  Ouch.

Land Rover will presumably do the same thing at the California (and probably U.S.) Supreme Court stage as well.  Play it conservative.  Do the thing that no one can dispute.  Spend the money, don't settle the case, say that it's not your fault -- that the Court of Appeal got it wrong, that you hired the best lawyer in town, etc etc.

Sometimes that play works.  Sometimes it doesn't.  Here's an example of the latter.