Argument: Crafting your Case

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The Open and Close

While opening and closing statements are not supposed to be considered when the jury is reaching a verdict, practically speaking, they often do shape the minds of the jury. They can have a tremendous impact in changing their initial impressions to evidence and testimony. When best used in products liability cases, the opening statement should provide a clear path directing those on the jury from the plaintiff to the product and to the plaintiff’s corresponding injuries. You should avoid arguing or offering evidence you will not later prove at trial. In your closing statement, reflect on what you have proved and what the defense has failed to prove. Note how combined with the evidence, the jury instructions all but force the jury to find in your favor. Try to use an easy three-party structure to close your case so that the story is easily remembered. Also, when appropriate use evidence because they serve as landmarks on the path of your story. Below are sample opening and closing statements in products liability cases:

Examinations: Direct and Cross

All cases are put on through witnesses and all cases are challenged through witnesses. Without leading, you must bring your witnesses in direct examinations to water through factual questions, identifications, and, where relevant, opinions. However, product liability cases typically raise unique problems of complexity. The jury may not understand how the product was defective or how severe the injury was. Therefore, without condescension, you must break down technical terms and concepts to make them aware of the deviation and its consequences. On cross-examination, your job is to challenge the relevance of the evidence offered and the qualifications of the witnesses’ testimony. See below for sample examinations from Illinois products liability cases:

Jury Instructions

The judge sets the legal context within which the jury is supposed to render its verdict. All issues, definitions, and laws are handed from the bench. The jury is admonished to bring in anything else-even opening or closing statements-or bring in versions of their own issues, definitions, or laws. Obviously, with the complex structure of products liability, language is crucial whether either in a negligence or strict liability action. Therefore, having well written and argued jury instructions going into trial is important. Here are sample versions for your case:

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