"My First Trial" by Daniel Kramer '08, Attorney at Law with Gilbert, Kelly, Crowley & Jennett
On January 6, 2010, after 3 days of trial, 12 jurors unanimously
found in favor of my client. This verdict came only 11 months after I
was sworn in to practice law in the State of California. I represented
the defendant in Von Sonn v. Friedman, a civil dispute
involving an automobile accident in Marina Del Rey in August of 2007.
Plaintiff, a construction company owner, sued my client for motor
vehicle negligence alleging the accident caused a pinched nerve in his
lower back resulting in pain radiating to his lower extremities.
Plaintiff also claimed neck sprain, exacerbation of prior hip problems
as well as a contusion to his right knee.
Plaintiff underwent a variety of treatments, including approximately eight months of physical therapy and orthopedic consultations. His primary care physician recommended future spine injections due to continued pain relating to the accident. Plaintiff's past medical bills totaled $22,000 as well as projected future care in the amount of $60,000. Plaintiff's counsel asked the jury for $60,000 in pain and suffering, for a grand total of $142,000 in damages. Plaintiff called one expert, an orthopedic specialist, to substantiate his claim.
My theme throughout the trial was that the minor impact did not cause a change in plaintiff's preexisting injuries. In the months leading up to trial, I spent countless hours combing through volumes of plaintiff's medical records constructing my arguments to make it user friendly for a jury of lay people. To strengthen my non-aggravation argument, I called an expert orthopedic surgeon to testify as to plaintiff's pre- and post-accident condition. To address the forces placed on plaintiff's body, I called a bio-mechanic expert.
During cross-examination of plaintiff's expert, I was able to establish, through plaintiff's own doctor's admission that complaints of pain temporally close to the accident would make it less likely the accident had an effect on plaintiff's prior condition. Since the evidence supported my theory of the case I was able to use plaintiff's expert testimony to my benefit. From that point on it was a matter of bolstering the arguments through my experts and wrapping it all together in the closing argument. After weighing the evidence, the jury found my client's argument more persuasive and did not agree with the claims asserted by the plaintiff.
This victory was particularly gratifying for me as a new lawyer, considering the plaintiff's counsel is a graduate of New York University and UCLA School of Law, who has been litigating in the area for 34 years. I graduated from Southwestern in May of 2008, and I was practicing law for exactly 11 months when I tried and won this case. Moreover, I had never served as second chair in a case or even sat in on a trial. Everything I knew about a trial I learned at school and from the excellent mentors at Gilbert Kelly, who have tried hundred if not thousands of cases.
I feel strongly that my experience illustrates that Southwestern students are given the tools to succeed very early in their careers. As my case shows, we can go toe to toe against highly seasoned attorneys from great law schools around the country and win, with limited experience. I take great pride in my Southwestern education and the skills and knowledge that have prepared me to “hit the ground running" in the legal profession.