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Argument-Crafting Your Nursing Home Case

While much of the initial focus in your nursing home case will be on investigation, document drafting, and interviewing parties and witnesses, eventually, it will turn to the courtroom. This is an entirely different phase of the case and must be treated completely on its own terms. Instead of besting the opposing counsel in the judge’ s eyes, you must convince a jury of your credibility and convictions. Here is a review of the important parts of your nursing home trial.

Opening and Closing Statements

As a plaintiff’s lawyer in a nursing home case, you will be offered the chance to give an opening statement before the defense has a chance to speak to the jury. Whereas, in certain instances, it might make sense to pass on saying anything if you are in the defendant’s position, you should never pass as a plaintiff’s lawyer. This is a critical moment to speak to a fresh journey about the core nature of the case. Paint a simple and direct path for them to follow misconduct to injury to damages. You are not allowed to argue or offer evidence that you will not later prove but you can do a lot. The opening statement should command a lot of your attention. Practice a lot in front of a live audience and remember that as much as facts matter, so do credibility and sincerity. What you should also practice is your closing statement. This is where you connect the dots for the jury using testimony and evidence offered at trial. 

However, you can also note how the jury instructions impact the jury’s role in the case, arguing they might make it easier to find for your client. Again, be clear and concise. Also, do not be afraid to rebut your opponent’s major points because ignoring them could make you look weak or incompetent. Finally, remember the standard in your nursing home injury case is a preponderance of the evidence. This means that if it was more likely than not that the defendant’s conduct caused the plaintiff’s injuries, then the jury should find for the plaintiff. This is not a hard bar to clear and you should remind the jury of that by distinguishing between the standard in criminal cases (beyond a reasonable doubt).

Direct and Cross-Examinations

Plaintiffs’ lawyers in any field put on their cases through witnesses via direct examinations and challenge the cases of their opponents via cross-examinations of their witnesses. With regard to direct examinations, lawyers must structure their questions so as to elicit the points on the path of their case from their witnesses. Preparation is key. Plaintiffs’ lawyers should give their witnesses an indication of the length and setting in which they will be supposed to testify. Instill in them the fact that it is not so much important what they say as much as how they say it and that they are believed by the jury. 

They cannot be led on the stand by the attorney in direct examinations (meaning the lawyer cannot suggest the answer within the question) but they can be asked questions of fact, called to identify things, or asked their opinions if they are experts. While directly examining witnesses, lawyers should be ready to answer the objections of defense counsel on grounds such as hearsay, relevance, leading, narrative answer, and assumes facts not in evidence among other objections.

During cross-examinations, lawyers need to attack the credibility of the witness but must do so in the confines in which the opposing lawyer direct examined him or her. Generally, the methods of impeaching a witness include some of the following: bias, inconsistency, or character. Attach the story that the opposing counsel is telling through his or her witnesses but remember that the jury is watching so be gracious. Here are some sample examinations from Illinois nursing home cases:

Jury Instructions

After both sides have concluded their cases, the judge will give the jury instructions for reaching the verdict. These instructions will include the relevant issues, law, and definitions they must use in finding who is liable, if anyone. While lawyers from both sides can suggest instructions, the judge has ultimate authority on what they will include. 

However, lawyers can challenge these instructions on appeal. Then, using only the judge’s instructions and evidence offered, the jury must come to a verdict by determining the witnesses’ credibility and all factual issues presented. Here are sample jury instructions from Illinois nursing home cases

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