Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Gonsalves v. Li (Cal. Ct. App. - Jan. 13, 2015)

I routinely tell my students in my Pretrial Practice class that there's always a fine line between being a good trial attorney and being too good as a trial attorney.  You want to push the envelope, and to play on the sympathies of the jury.  But too much of that gets your really good jury verdict reversed.

Case in point.

There are lots of tiny little evidentiary errors here.  One of which -- admitting denials of RFA's into evidence -- bears special mention.  The Court of Appeal holds you can't do that.  Good to know.

Taken separately, truthfully, I don't know if there's a showing of prejudice.

But it's a good example of cumulative error.  Maybe the RFA's alone wouldn't require reversal.  Maybe the emphasis on the defendants being from China, while improper, wouldn't alone justify vacating the jury award.  Maybe the stuff about having to pay back worker's compensation, or the attorney's prior representation of a paraplegic, wouldn't by themselves compel the Court of Appeal to require to new trial.

But taken together, yeah, there's a decent chance it affected the result.  The case was close.  There was a lot of stuff that went wrong.

Do it again and get it right this time.

And for us attorneys, remember the lesson:  Be a good trial lawyer.  But not too good.