Don’t Go Nuclear! Six “Secrets” to Stopping Nuclear Verdicts®

Don’t Go Nuclear! Six “Secrets” to Stopping Nuclear Verdicts®

What is a Nuclear Verdict®?

We have all heard news of juries awarding incomprehensible piles of money in lawsuits where the injuries and the verdict just don’t seem to add up. These cases may leave you scratching your head trying to figure out just how that happened. These cases prompt jokes[i] and attempts by plaintiffs and their attorneys to use minor injuries as get rich quick schemes. Excessive demands may intimidate unprepared defense lawyers. Large, unsubstantiated jury verdicts with noneconomic damages which are disproportionate to the economic damages or verdicts of $10 million or more are known as Nuclear Verdicts®.[ii]

 

Nuclear Verdicts® can be stopped!

At Tyson & Mendes, when it comes to Nuclear Verdicts®, we are not scratching our heads, we don’t mess around, and we aren’t scared. Nuclear verdicts can be stopped! Years ago, Bob Tyson, Strategic Managing Partner of Tyson & Mendes, cracked the code for stopping Nuclear Verdicts.®[iii] Better yet, he is willing to share his methods for stopping Nuclear Verdicts®, and not just with the attorneys at Tyson & Mendes…with everyone! It is his mission–and Tyson & Mendes’ mission–to defend justice for all.

In 2020, Bob Tyson published Nuclear Verdicts: Defending Justice for All, which explains in detail his methods for stopping Nuclear Verdicts®. All Tyson & Mendes attorneys and staff are thoroughly trained in these critical methods for defusing Nuclear Verdicts®. Let’s take a look at Tyson & Mendes’ four critical methods for stopping Nuclear Verdicts®, in a nutshell, as well as two additional strategies.

 

The Four Critical Methods:

 

Accept Responsibility

No one likes a person who causes harm but won’t admit that they caused the harm, or worse yet, blames others for the harm they caused. Denying responsibility is a quick way to anger a jury. We all have responsibilities, and we must be accountable for our responsibilities. Whether the defendant takes full responsibility or responsibility for a small share of the fault, the defendant must own that responsibility. This ownership does not necessarily equate to an admission of liability. Thus, a defendant may deny liability while accepting responsibility for such actions as maintaining applicable safety standards, safe driving standards, a safe workplace, safe premises, or a safe product. Whatever the case, defendants must accept responsibility for something and must take that responsibility seriously.

 

Give a Number

Although it may sound counterintuitive, always give a number as to the verdict you want, even when liability is denied.  Tell the jury exactly what you want them to award. Give your number early, and give it often. Give the number as early as when you first meet potential jurors during jury selection, then work the number in throughout the case. The number must be fixed and never go up.  In this way, the jury will become comfortable with your number. Do not surprise the jury by holding onto that number and then springing it on them during your closing argument. A fixed number will help instill the jury’s confidence in that number, and that is often what the jury will award, as opposed to the plaintiffs’ exaggerated number.

 

Argue Pain and Suffering

In order to put a reasonable dollar figure on a plaintiff’s pain and suffering, you must understand the impact the accident had on the plaintiff’s life and the impact of money on the plaintiff’s life. Compensation for pain and suffering should help to restore the plaintiff to the lifestyle and quality of life they enjoyed before the incident, not make plaintiffs rich. While no one can undo what occurred, the jury can award money to help restore the plaintiff’s quality of life, including the experiences and comfort they had. How has plaintiff’s life changed since the incident? What did plaintiff do before the incident that they cannot do now? What are their passions? What hobbies do they have? Where do they go for vacation?

What do all these things cost? How can money help plaintiff? With a reasonable verdict, what are examples of things that plaintiff could do with that money? How can this money further their passions? How will this money help plaintiff enjoy their hobbies? How will money, and all that it can buy, help make plaintiff whole? By presenting these questions to the jury, they will think in concrete terms about how to make the plaintiff whole, and much less inclined to agree with the plaintiff’s abstract and inflated number.

 

Personalize the Defendant

Do not let the defendant be perceived as a faceless, particularly when representing large corporate defendants. Have the defendant or a representative of the defendant present in court every day. If a representative of the defendant appears in court, make sure it is the same representative every day. This gives the defendant a face and shows jurors the defendant is interested in the matter and is taking it seriously. Tell the defendant’s story to the jury and make the defendant real to the jury. Let the jury know the defendant has values, takes responsibility, and contributes to society.  Also let the jury know that, like all of us, the defendant has challenges and struggles at times. In this way, the jury will see the defendant for what it is, rather than an abstract, bottomless money pit.

 

Additional Strategies

 

Be Reasonable

Strive to be the most reasonable person in the courtroom. Reasonableness defuses anger, which is one of the top driving forces of a Nuclear Verdict®. Focus on how the jury can help achieve justice for all in the case. Not just justice for the defense, but justice for the plaintiff too. When you make a reasonable request, it is more likely to be granted.

 

Tell Plaintiff’s Good News

While plaintiff’s counsel may focus on the doom and gloom of the situation, look for the silver lining in plaintiff’s story. Tell the jury about plaintiff’s strengths, resilience, and ability to overcome adversity. Let the jury know that there are better days are ahead for plaintiff, the good things that may have resulted from the accident, and the positive effect a reasonable verdict will have on plaintiff’s life.

 

Takeaway

Don’t let plaintiffs go nuclear on you. These are proven methods for stopping Nuclear Verdicts®. To learn more about these methods, check out Bob Tyson’s book, Nuclear Verdicts: Defending Justice for All. This book is available on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Nuclear-Verdicts-Defending-Justice-All/dp/1948792036. Additionally, later this year, look for a second book, Nuclear Verdicts: Break the Pattern, co-authored by Cayce E. Lynch,[iv] which will provide an in depth look at the patterns associated with Nuclear Verdicts®.

For extensive and intensive training on Nuclear Verdicts®, defense counsel should consider attending The Nuclear Verdicts Defense Institute, an immersive, four-day trial academy, created to train defense counsel on how to apply methods to stop Nuclear Verdicts®. The next session will take place July 18-21, 2024, in La Jolla, California. For more information and to apply, visit www.nuclearverdictsdefense.com.

 

 

 

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Sources


 

[i] Saturday Night Live, “Attorney Add (February 28, 2017),  https://youtu.be/C8_3jS9wd9w; Saturday Night Live, “Glenda Goodwin, Attorney at Law” (September 7, 2019 https://youtu.be/aBsW8kD5J6I?si=3_4A-Qjb9jLChnr9).

[ii] Daily Journal, “Nuclear Verdict: Year-end trends and looking forward” (December 8, 2023) https://www.dailyjournal.com/articles/376132-nuclear-verdicts-year-end-trends-and-looking-forward.

[iii] Robert F. Tyson, Jr., Nuclear Verdicts: Defending Justice for All (2020).

[iv] Sabarese, Angela, “Accepting Responsibility to Avoid Nuclear Verdicts.” (March 11, 2024).