By Dr. Kevin Boully:
In little more than a moment a man goes from enjoying his favorite recreational sport to an injured Plaintiff with a sports-product liability claim. It happens in a flash. And new research suggests that people may make determinations about a witness's trustworthiness and empathy just as quickly -- in about 20 seconds. So what happens when Defendant manufacturers are faced with challenging facts, sympathetic Plaintiffs, and a need to present a believable trial story in sports-related products liability cases? In this post, we focus on a three part approach to developing a critical aspect of an effective product-defense -- an effective product safety story.
Earlier this year, a Missouri jury awarded $48 million to the families of five people who perished during a skydiving incident. Trial testimony indicated the Defendant airplane-parts manufacturer made a replacement part for the aircraft using a metal alloy that cost about half as much as the metal the original manufacturer required. Plaintiffs also presented evidence that the replacement part had caused other engine failures, and had failed internal testing. These are not good facts (to put it lightly), and a Defendant in this position clearly faces an uphill battle. But a Defendant in this position must present a credible company witness (if not multiple witnesses) who can tell the story that made the Defendant company's decisions safe and reasonable based on the knowledge and testing available at the time.