An essay in the NY Times by a blogger and digital media strategist about the Gwyneth Paltrow trial misstates just about everything about your typical personal injury lawsuit. The author, Ms. Spiers, thankfully claims no legal degrees or training and is apparently at the NY Times, which I generally respect, for some sort of pop culture view of things. Nevertheless, no lawyer practicing personal injury law would agree with most of what she says in her op ed. It is just silly nonsense. The link can be found herehttps://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/04/opinion/letters/gwyneth-paltrow-ski-trial.html .
First, as a plaintiff’s lawyer, this was a problematic case. I try to avoid taking cases where negligence is in dispute and injuries are in dispute. You really don’t want to have to fight both of these points. So, this was a weaker case to start with. Second, the brain injury cases are harder cases and easier to attack from the defense side as there is little objective evidence of injury oftentimes. Third, you can spend a lot of money on experts to challenge liability and that was done here, but is not a wise move from a plaintiff’s perspective. Here, the defense challenged the plaintiff’s theory that Gwyneth was the cause of the crash. That would not happen if you were t-boned at an intersection. Fourth, rarely can you sue in the ski resort setting and you certainly cannot sue the resort where the event occurred in most states.
Additionally, Ms. Spiers argues that litigation is expensive and borne by every adult to the tune of $3,500 or so. I think that that is a silly statistic. Seriously, incredibly stupid. Does litigation increase the cost of doing business in America? Of course it does. What do you get in return? A profound focus on safety, the rights of the individual to be safe in using products and going about their everyday life and ….. oh, wait, complying with the US Constitution’s Sixth Amendment Right to Confrontation and a jury trial. Crazy, I know. So, the author has safe cars, safe products to use, and safe medical care and safe places to ski or pen her opinions. She gets to live a long, safe life because of what she perceives as the cost of litigation.
In addition, as for “costs”, plaintiff’s lawyers usually pay for the case and take a loss if they lose. So, the Plaintiff, who lost here, never owed a dime to his counsel. Second, Gwyneth was most likely defended by her insurance defense counsel assigned to her by her insurance company. She too most likely paid no legal bills because the insurance company paid all her expenses. That is part of what you pay for when you pay for car insurance. Even if she had lost, her insurer would have paid up to the limits of their insurance policy. They have to defend you and pay the expense of doing so.
Finally, as to the facts of the case and testimony, it is really, really problematic to have a Plaintiff taking vacations that far exceed the normal vacation for a normal juror. This plaintiff was taking very high end vacations and posting about them on social media. This is simply silly conduct by the Plaintiff and one where most likely the attorney counseled the Plaintiff that this did not look good. Further, where the Plaintiff is spouting conspiracy theories from the stand, most people are going to think you are a kook and not be sympathetic to the evidence you put forward. Why would a juror want to help you if the evidence is that you are better off than they are? You don’t need the money and why would they want their rates to go up, which is part of every jurors’ fears about awarding a big verdict.
So, while the trial was televised and hence open to being watched by a digital strategist, the crux of the trial was missed.