Jones Act Lawyer Defended Judge From Charges Of Mishandling Jury Evidence

JANUARY 3, 2012 by Ogletree Abbott

Use Of “Visual Aid” Was Not Crucial, Jones Act Lawyer Proved In Jury Decision Favoring Seaman

A Jones Act lawyer will help a seaman successfully explain a case to a jury. In the following case, a vessel owner argued (unsuccessfully) that a trial judge had made a mistake in “relying” on a Jones Act lawyer’s visual aid to help explain something to a jury. Following closing arguments, the trial judge came down from his bench, approached the jury box, and stood next to the Jones Act lawyer’s visual aid, which was a blow-up of the jury instructions (especially, noted the Jones Act lawyer) questions the jury had to answer to reach its decision. The trial judge then explained the jury interrogatories, and made reference to the ‘blow-up’ copy of the Jones Act lawyer’s visual aid…but only to clarify the whole process.

The vessel owner (Chaparral Offshore Drill Company) complained at that time, the Jones Act lawyer observed, by saying the visual aid also displayed cash amounts, inserted by the Jones Act lawyer into the blanks on the chart. The trial judge quickly told the jury it was not to consider the amounts in the blanks on the visual aid. After the jury retired, Chaparral objected to the use of the visual aid, saying its use was prejudicial (or unfair) to it. But after talking with the judge, the Jones Act lawyer proved, Chaparral did not repeat the objection. Only after the jury ruled against the vessel owner, and the vessel owner appealed, was the visual aid issue strongly raised. On appeal, the Jones Act lawyer quoted the judge’s own answer to the vessel owner’s complaint about the visual aid going into the jury room:

I appreciate that, but had the objection been timely made, I could have considered it. Unfortunately, the objection wasn’t made…I did go to great pains to tell them to forget about the blanks that had been filled in by the Jones Act lawyer…I don’t feel that another admonition to the jury is warranted, even at this late date, because I feel that I adequately admonished them not to place any weight on the fact that I was using the [Jones Act lawyer] blow-up of my Jury Questions to demonstrate to them how to answer, and I took pains to cover the damage portion and explain to the jurors more than once that they were not expected to award damages at all. And if they did, they were to award damages that they felt were reasonable. I think overall the instructions were fair to all sides, and the Court will over-rule the objection.

Jones Act Lawyer Proved Jury Had Not Used Visual Aid To Reach Its Decision

The Jones Act lawyer set out to prove Chaparral suffered no prejudice (or harm) by the way the trial court used the visual aid. First, the Jones Act lawyer mentioned how the trial court had correctly told the jury “it was not to place any weight on the use of the visual aid” or even the amounts located in the blank spaces. Second, as the Jones Act lawyer pointed out, the jury’s award didn’t exactly match any of the amounts listed on the visual aid.

Chaparral complained that the visual aid, which wasn’t introduced into evidence, was only accidentally taken back to the jury room when deliberations began. Shortly after the jury retired, the trial judge himself personally retrieved the visual aid. Chaparral objected to the mere presence of the visual aid, emphasized the Jones Act lawyer. And, the trial judge had even asked Chaparral if it “were sure it wanted to object,” because the visual aid had been “laying up against the hall, hidden behind all of the other posters.” Chaparral, the Jones Act lawyer proved, actually withdrew its objection when it was assured by the trial judge that it “wasn’t seen by the jury.”

Working With An Experienced Jones Act Lawyer Helps Jury Get Important Facts

The Jones Act lawyer had proven there was no basis to Chaparral’s saying that its case was harmed by the visual aid being briefly taken to the jury room. Finally, the Jones Act lawyer also observed that the vessel owner’s decision to withdraw its objection should have consequences. In short, the Appeals Court also agreed the employer had lost the right to raise the issue on appeal. As a result, the Jones Act lawyer also asked that the vessel owner be required to pay the seaman’s legal costs of appeal. That request, in addition to upholding the seaman’s award already won by the Jones Act lawyer, was also granted.

Quickly working with a Jones Act lawyer in this case protected the injured seaman from the start. The experienced Jones Act lawyer in this case also fought to make the vessel owner responsible for added legal expenses. Though not every case involves a vessel owner challenging the actions of a judge, making a strong case so very often does begin by meeting, early on, with a Jones Act lawyer.

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