11
May
07

Spongebob Goes to Court

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We hear lots of people say lots of things throughout our lives. But every once in a while someone says something that is not only strange, but is said at such a odd time so as to completely baffle all hearers.

This week I had the opportunity to do my civic duty. I served on a jury. I had to report to Houston County Superior Court here in Perry Monday morning to undergo jury selection for a civil case. They were not able to complete jury selection that day so I returned Wednesday and after a few questions by the judge and the defense attorney I, along with eleven others, was chosen to serve on the jury for the case of McClain and Scott vs. Bryant. And since the case is over, I am allowed to talk about it publicly.

The Case

On Christmas Eve 2003, Ms. McClain and her common law husband, Mr. Scott were driving west on Russell Parkway. They were following their daughter who was going to return a test drive vehicle to a dealership. Upon approaching Houston Lake Road they moved in to the yield lane that would allow them to bypass the red light and make their right turn onto Houston Lake Road. Well, as the defense (and their witness) described, Ms. McClain, who was driving, put on her brakes and came to a stop for no reason while in this lane causing the traffic behind her to stop suddenly. She then proceeded and suddenly stopped again but this time Mr. Bryant who was following bumped into the bumper of the car Ms. McClain was driving. The witness for the defense, who saw the whole thing from a gas station that was on that same corner, testified that the accident did not look like anything spectacular. But he finished pumping his gas and drove over to see about everyone. Ms. McClain and Mr. Scott both stated that they were fine. They also told Mr. Bryant they were fine. Three hours later (after doing some other activities) they go to Dublin, GA to the ER of Fairview Park Hospital and get checked out. Six days later they meet with their lawyer at the time who advises them to go to a chiropractor, so they do. Then they decide to sue Mr. Bryant.

The Trial

This case was pathetic in several ways. First of all, Ms. McClain and Mr. Scott (the plaintiffs) did not even offer an opening statement nor did they ask questions of the potential jurors prior to jury selection. Second, they had at one time retained an attorney, but had since decided to represent themselves. The reason this was sad is that they presented practically no evidence. They didn’t subpoena the chiropractor or records of their visit(s) to him; they didn’t subpoena any of the ER staff or any of the records of their visit there on the day of the accident. The only evidence offered by the plaintiffs was each of their own testimonies and the testimony of their daughter, whom they were following. She didn’t even see it happen. She merely described the aftermath of how they went to the ER three hours later. And even the testimonies of Ms. McClain and Mr. Scott were really no more than them whining about how hard they got hit and how much they hurt and how they should win the case. Incidentally, Ms. McClain testified after Mr. Scott and actually negated some of his testimony stating that he “didn’t know what he was saying.” They didn’t cross examine any of the witnesses for the defense and the closing argument offered by Mr. Scott was basically him saying thank you to the jury and that he thinks they should win.

Mr. Squarepants, Do You Promise To Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth?

There were a lot of other things that went wrong for the plaintiffs in this case, but the most bizarre part of the whole trial was when Ms. McClain was giving her narrative testimony. She was hard to understand and kept wiping her eyes and/or nose as if she were about to cry (call me hard-hearted, but I was not buying it). She described the occurrence as her getting into the yield lane and then Mr. Bryant “flying” up behind her and then hitting them. She then said something to the effect of “And I just went out.” Even though all other witnesses (including Mr. Scott who was in the car with her) testified that she was never unconscious at any point. After she “went out” she described that something told her to pull her car to the side of the road so she did (even though no other witnesses could recall her doing that either). She said (and I am recounting to the best of my recollection) “I was in shock. And I looked at him [Mr. Scott] and he was just in shock…he was stuck like Spongebob and I was….” Hold it! Rewind!

He was “stuck like Spongebob”?

She continued talking beyond this statement but I am not sure anyone heard her next few words. I think that everyone else was still trying to see how Spongebob ties into this civil case. I know I was. As funny as it might be on any other occasion to compare another’s behavior to that of Spongebob Squarepants, I am certain that if I were the plaintiff in a case such as this one that I could come up with an analogy that sounded a little more….not-weird. And of course the defense attorney did not pass up an opportunity to milk that one. One of his first questions was “so you are saying that you were both in shock and that you did not say anything to Mr. Scott and he didn’t not say anything to you?” “That’s right”, she replied. “So he was just ‘stuck like Spongebob’? What exactly does that mean, Ms. McClain?” Finally! Someone asked the question were all dying to know the answer to. What was her answer? “His eyes were all buggin’ out and he couldn’t say nothin’.” mm-hmm.

Once both sides of the case were heard the judge charged us with going into deliberations in order to come to a verdict. We could find in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant. If we found in favor of the plaintiff, we had to also come up with how much of a settlement they should get. Her honor also stated that we could only consider facts entered into evidence (including testimonies) and that we must decide if the preponderance of evidence weighed in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant. A majority of the jury, myself included, felt that the plaintiffs had simply not presented a very believable case and we were ready to side with the defendant. But there were a few bleeding hearts that simply felt sorry for the plaintiffs. In the end we decided to award each plaintiff with $950 which was a lot less than what the “bleeding hearts” wanted to give them, but still more than I wanted to give them (which was nothing). Nine hundred and fifty dollars was more than enough to cover their trip to the ER, but most of us did not feel that the trip to the chiropractor was necessary and that they simply did it at the encouragement of their lawyer (because they thought it might help in their case); it might have helped if they had actually presented the chiropractor’s testimony and/or his records of their visit(s) as evidence.

Moral of the Story

Lawyers are a necessary part of the justice system. Use one!

Secondary Moral of the Story: Don’t use references to cartoons in your testimony if the validity thereof is already in question.
Josh H.

PS: How many Chuck Norrises does it take to change a light bulb?

None, Chuck Norris prefers to kill in the dark.

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5 Responses to “Spongebob Goes to Court”


  1. May 11, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    So they actually won? I am stuck like Spongebob at such preposterousness.

  2. May 11, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    The thing is the jury was at an absolute stalemate. A verdict requires a unanimous decision by the jury. I fought against it until the end; then it was clear that we’d have to compromise.

    The problem was a couple of jurors felt that finding in favor of the defendant was like saying it was ALL the plaintiff’s fault. Which wasn’t the case, in fact, it wasn’t even the point. The question was did the defendant act negligently? And the burden of proof was on the plaintiffs and they simply did not do a convincing job. The jury’s deliberations were pretty ugly. I think we rendered the wrong decision and most of us compromised what we felt was right. But we had to come to a decision. It was very hard.

    In the end the defendant and the attorney acted satisfied with our verdict. Even though he’d have to pay some money, at least it wasn’t a ridiculous amount like many frivolous lawsuits.

  3. May 11, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    When I had jury duty, we had a few dumb-butts on the jury as well. We debated for a long time as to whether to get the man on 4 counts of (attempted) aggravated assault (he was waving a gun around at his son and his son’s girlfriend) or 2. Her 2 kids were in the back of the car, but he wasn’t doing anything but yelling at his son and waving the gun around. Many of us felt that the only people he was guilty of assaulting were his son and the girlfriend. But one lady kept saying, “but if we say that, and this comes back to hurt those poor kids, y’all…” What in the world did the kids have to do with it? And how could it come back and hurt them? The girlfriend was obviously not with the son anymore and she and her kids lived in Florida . The accused was just a poor little podunk who had gotten really upset with his podunk son one night. I bet you anything within a few weeks of his getting out of jail, he and his son were watching “wrasslin'” and drinking beer together.

  4. 4 kev
    May 14, 2007 at 8:59 am

    Wow, this happened Christmas of 2003?? No wonder the defendant was satisfied. Can you imagine having this hanging over your head for almost 3 1/2 years? Having a lawsuit filed against you from two individuals who were obviously using this extremely minor fender bender as a way to get rich?

    The plaintiffs getting ANY money hurts my head, but I have a feeling the defendant was doing cartwheels in the street after the trial.

    You jurors (the ones who used common sense) made his decade.

  5. May 15, 2007 at 10:19 am

    Wow. I have no words. I am wordless.


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