Book review by John E. Dannenberg
Proving Damages to the Jury is a detailed “how-to” manual that takes the reader through the psychology, reasoning, preparation and execution of a civil damages trial. The object lesson is to learn how to select, prime and sell the jury on a maximum damage award for the plaintiff.
The author, Jim Wren, a law professor at Baylor University, has 30 years of trial experience and has been honored as a “Texas Super Lawyer.” Proving Damages is an incredibly insightful, pragmatic treatise for both litigants and attorneys who want to “win big.” The book’s 21 chapters are written in a succinct style with numerous helpful subheadings; the detailed table of contents alone is 30 pages.
Proving Damages begins with a study of juror motivations, fears and biases – identifying and analyzing 15 types of juror biases. The book explains that biases are shortcuts to decision-making, and occur naturally or can be acquired. Positive motivations are stronger than negative ones, Wren notes, when it comes to damages. Fears generally can be allayed by working to establish credibility through honesty and forthrightness throughout the trial. Indeed, one chapter is devoted to developing such candor and rapport with the jury, which Wren labels “vital” in maximizing damage awards.
Forty pages then address successful language keys for communicating damages. “It’s language, not math,” Wren asserts. A lengthy chapter analyzes interviewing and investigating the plaintiff in preparation for trial. The book distinguishes personal injury, wrongful death, business injury, real property and employment damage claims in this regard, with sample questionnaires for each type of claim. A discussion on the use of expert witnesses warns of potential legal challenges that need to be anticipated and resolved before trial. A chapter is devoted to the use of damages experts; another deals with “test juries” to help predict how much should realistically be requested. Telling the story to the jury using “psychodrama” is touted as an effective method.
The book then goes through the formal stages of trial, beginning with discovery, visual aids and evidentiary issues. Forty pages are devoted to voir dire – a time when Wren suggests pre-selling jurors during the selection process. Opening statements, direct examination and cross-examination are addressed in separate chapters, in which Wren concentrates on fulfilling the baseline concept of credibility with the jury. Finally, although punitive damages are relatively rare, the book includes guidance on how to maximize results.
To help educate a jury on how to analyze all the variables involved, Proving Damages supplies sample damage estimation forms, amortization tables from which to calculate future damages, and even Power Point slides that can be used during deliberations. If you need to research Proving Damages on the fly but can’t tote the 800-page tome around, just examine the included CD of the text on your computer and search by word or phrase.
Wren has promised to publish an updated edition of this book every two years that will include suggestions from readers. Proving Damages is available from James Publishing, 2505 Cadillac Ave., Suite H, Costa Mesa, CA 92626 (800) 440-4780; www.jamespublishing.com.
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