NOLAN ON OPENING STATEMENT
Kenneth P. Nolan writes a monthly column entitled Sidebar for Litigation, the monthly publication by the American Bar Association Section of Litigation. Mr. Nolan is a proud resident of Brooklyn, New York and a seasoned veteran of New York courtrooms. In my humble opinion his columns are the best part of Litigation. In his Summer, 2009 column[yeah, I’m a little behind in my periodical reading] he discussed Opening Statements. The entire column is worth a read. But I wanted to mention one of the points he made that I really liked.
Nolan, like many other trial attorneys suggests that you let a little argument seep into your Opening Statement. He notes:
The plaintiff has to tell the jury what he will prove. “The evidence will prove…” And what he wants. “At the end of the this trial, I want you to give a verdict for Mrs. Clark adn award her money damages..” Don’t be shy. If you want a boatload of dough, tell them. You don’t have to use numbers, but make sure they understand you will be asking for more than they’ll ever make in five lifetimes.
If you want the jury to toss the pathetic plaintiff and his wheelchair into the middle of Court Street, tell them. If the plaintiff was fired because he was a lazy, incompetent bum and not because of his race, religion or sex, shout it. In a refined way of course. If you don’t they may never know. Don’t wait until closing. It may be too late.
….The defendant should appeal to the jurors’ courage, fairness and common sense in peeking around and through the horrible injuries. American justice demands you award the plaintiff nothing. Enter judgment for my client Exxon because even large corporations that make billions and employ thousands deserve the same fair shake as you and me and all Americans.
His column alone makes the costs of Litigation worth it.