Today I will be speaking to personal injury lawyers and consumer lawyers from across the country about one of my toughest truck accident trials to date. I’ll be in San Francisco, lecturing at the Melvin M. Belli Society Seminar.
My topic is “How to Win a Truck Accident Case with 5 Truckers on Your Jury,” and it’s based on my case, Shekoski v. Allied Trucking Company et. al.
In Shekoski, an 83-year-old man named Michael Shekoski was run over by a truck and killed as he was attempting to legally cross the road on his bicycle. The lawyers defending the trucking company refused to accept any responsibility for Mr. Shekoski’s wrongful death, saying that he caused his own death. Then they said it didn’t really matter because an 83-year-old man isn’t worth very much money. The defense offered $250,000 before trial and $500,000 when the jury was deliberating. The jury returned $2.55 million.
I guess the value of an 83-year-old man’s life is worth more than Secura Insurance Company thinks.
But what I’ll be speaking about is my jury on that case. I don’t know what the odds are for something like this, and it seems pretty unbelievable, but there were five people who were connected with the truck industry on my jury.
No, there weren’t five truck drivers on the jury (that was the marketing person shortening my title and coming up with a snappy sounding title). There were, however, five people with strong connections to the truck industry. I had a truck driver, a man who owned a company that owned and operated trucks, another man who was a safety director who oversaw truckers, a woman who was the foreperson who owned a landscaping company that owned a commercial motor vehicle, and the mom of a truck driver.
If you are a plaintiff attorney starting off a horrific wrongful death case stemming from a trucking accident, this is not a good way to start.
My jury consultant sent me an e-mail at midnight saying I should non-suit. I learned that night that in some lucky states, when a lawyer gets a jury that seems this foreboding, they can essentially ask for a do-over.
Not in Michigan, however. And faking a heart attack wasn’t going to work either. I was stuck with the jury I drew and I had to change my entire plan for trial that night before my opening statement the next day.
Unfortunately for my readers, the Shekoski trial is currently on appeal, so I cannot write now of what changes I made. But for those lawyers attending the Belli Seminar today in California, I will share my tips and ideas for connecting with a hostile jury, and how I was able to convince these people that the driver and company for Allied Excavation were negligent and needed to be held fully accountable for the rules they violated that day that took Michael Shekoski’s life.
The Melvin M. Belli Society is a legal group of injury lawyers that presents hard-hitting, practical seminars featuring lawyers who are experts in the courtroom and discussing innovative trial skills.
Michigan Auto Law has been a long-standing member, contributor and lecturer to the Melvin Belli Society. I also spoke at the Belli seminar in the past on using evidence of chronic fatigue caused by serious physical injuries and pain to secure excess economic damages.
On Monday, I’ll be speaking on “Hidden Injuries in the Bus, School Bus and Truck Accident Case,” and I’ll be presenting to the Motor Vehicle Collision, Highway and Premises Liability Section and Bus Litigation Group for the American Association for Justice.