On August 16th, 2018 The Haggard Law Firm will present Winning Case Strategies in Premises Liability, a FREE CLE Credit Seminar. The event will take place from 1 to 5pm at the Doubletree Jacksonville Riverfront. To RSVP for the seminar, email or call Stacy at firstname.lastname@example.org 305.446.5700
Common Conditions that Give Rise to a Premises Liability Case
by Douglas Mccarron
In my experience, the most common condition in any premises liability case is the lack of guardianship of the property. In most instances, the property owner and/or manager fails to put in place policies and procedures that ensure that the premises is kept in a reasonably safe condition. For example, in many negligent security cases it becomes obvious that the owner and management fail to do anything that assesses violent crime occurring at the property. Without knowing what type of crime is happening, it is nearly impossible to know what type of security measures are needed. How can the owner make decisions about access control, manned security, and surveillance cameras, if they have failed to gather the crime statistics for the property and the surrounding area? The answer is simple, they do not know and consequently violent crime continues to victimize the property’s guests and invitees. In slip and fall cases, many properties fail to ensure that their employees follow the internal policies and procedures to maintain the property in a safe manner. This leads to dangerous conditions being left on the property for an unacceptable amount of time.
If property owners simply prepare policies and procedures for their employees to follow and have appropriate supervision to ensure that the policies and procedures are being followed, then the most dangerous conditions would cease to exist. Obviously, financial considerations come into play for the property owners. In developing a premises liability case, it is important to discover exactly what property owners are failing to do and why they are failing to do it. Jurors do not appreciate property owners turning a blind eye and pleading ignorance. Jurors also do not accept that the owners do not want to put the necessary resources (money) into the property to make it safe.
Every trial lawyer understands the significance of creating and developing a strong, clear theme for their case at trial. The theme of your case initiates a tone towards your Case-in-Chief and if powerful enough, it will dictate which fork in the road, favorable or unfavorable to your client, the jury takes.
Opening statement is the second opportunity the trial lawyer has to begin planting the seed of bias in favor of his or her client—seasoned and skilled trial lawyers understand voir dire is really the first opportunity. It is critical to communicate to the jury and ingrain within each member of the jury a persuasive and powerful theme. Why? Once your theme is etched into the minds of the jury, each juror will begin to look for evidence that supports that theme. If a particular piece of evidence contradicts that theme they will likely discard that piece of evidence or they may not associate as much credence with it as they would have had it fit with your theme. This is vital to the outcome of your case. The theme essentially summarizes your case for the jury. Whether it is a short phrase or one word, the theme should capture the case theory, tone and the area of focus for the jury. The theme should be simple and easy to understand. I can share with you a case example in a recent trial of The Haggard Law Firm—the case of Trinard Snell.
Our firm tried the negligent security case against a gas station owner and operator, which resulted in a $5.7 million dollar verdict on behalf of the deceased Plaintiff and his survivors. Understanding the importance of a clear theory and a memorable, persuasive theme, we began opening statement with our theme— inadequate security on a crime-ridden property.
The case theme was presented to the jury at the very beginning of opening statement, repeated throughout the entire opening statement and reiterated at the end. Why? A concept in psychology—primacy, and recency—tells us that order is important! The primacy effect is described as the ability of an individual to recall information better that was presented earlier rather than later. The recency effect is described as the ability of an individual to remember information presented most recently to them better than information that was presented earlier. When you combine the two, optimal information recollection is achieved. Therefore, at minimum, the jury must here your theme at the beginning and at the end of your presentation.
Haggard Law Firm trial lawyer and Managing Partner, Michael Haggard email MAH@HaggardLawFirm.com
Testimony and Evidence Presented
After your jury has been indoctrinated with the theme of your case through voir dire and opening statement, you must keep the jury on that same track during the presentation of the oral testimony and physical evidence. Depending on the length of the trial, the jury will hear days to weeks of testimony. It is their job to sort through the evidence presented and make a just decision at the end of the trial. After weeks of testimony, jurors often become overwhelmed with the volume of information and evidence presented. It is the trial lawyer’s job to organize this testimony and evidence presented to the jury in a manner that diminishes this information overload. I use the analogy of a train on a train track to best describe this concept. The theme is the locomotive. Your jury represents the passengers on the train. The trial lawyer must keep his or her passengers onboard throughout the entire trial until arriving at destination “Favorable Verdict.”
One way to ensure your train passengers are not disembarking is to reiterate your theme and theory of your case throughout each segment of the trial. Your theme should be clear, concise and easy to recognize. The theme is the lens through which your jury will view the case. It is imperative that the lens you provide to the jury is the correct diopter—representing a powerful and persuasive theme. An incorrect diopter will result in a hazy, unclear view of your case and perhaps an unfavorable verdict. Mock trials and jury focus groups are a great way to gauge the lens diopter your jury will need.
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As simple as this may sound, many lawyers have a difficult time successfully implementing these techniques. Through our years of law school and demanding casework at our prosperous law firms, our legal minds are trained to analyze the complexities and minutiae of the law, creating sophisticated legal arguments for opposing counsel and the court. The basic techniques of persuasive communication are often neglected due to the lawyer’s engrossment with the complexities of the legal issues of their case and their own familiarity with legal terms and attitude of simplicity. For example, the trial attorney that uses the theme of “Negligent Actions” will be rudely surprised by the jurors’ varying definitions of negligence. Despite the lawyer’s familiarity with the term “negligence” and its rudimentary elements, it is not so easily nor correctly defined by the jury. Through juror focus groups and mock trials, the lawyer can clear out the fog and rework the case theme prior to trial. During the deliberations at mock trials, I often hear jurors begin an explanation with “Personally, I feel that…” or “To me, this means…” These phrases are indicative of “information gap-filling.” Jurors will pull from their personal experiences to fill in the gaps. Those gaps are either areas where the jury is confused or has simply forgotten the information presented. Regardless of the reason for the existence of the gap, the juror will instinctively try to fill that gap in order to make sense of the legal questions they are tasked with answering. This illustrates why trial lawyers cannot forget the basics and cannot neglect the importance of simplifying and effectively communicating those complex issues to the members of the jury. The skilled trial lawyer will be mindful of this. The skilled trial lawyer will have an engaging theme.
On April 6th of this year, I celebrated my 1 ½ year KIDNEYVERSARY!! How did I celebrate? By preparing for Trial….that was awesome!!! I could only do that due to God’s grace, my prayers were answered and my brother-in-law, Major Allen Buckhalt (US Army Blackhawk Pilot and Iraq/Afghanistan war Veteran) was a match to donate me a kidney and save my life!! As all of you know (BECAUSE YOU HAVE BEEN THERE FOR ME AND MY FAMILY THIS WHOLE TIME), I have Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) a genetic, life-threatening and incurable disease. There are only two treatments, DIALYSIS or a...
Michael Haggard says he wanted to become a trial lawyer thanks to the example set by his father Andy Haggard and what he watched his father do to help clients effected by tragedy.
Haggard has established himself as a powerful force in the South Florida Legal Community as the Managing Partner for The Haggard Law Firm. After spending time as a Public Defender and working with a small personal injury firm before joining The Haggard Law Firm, Haggard was named a partner in 2001, secure in the belief that every case holds equal importance and could mean the opportunity to award a family...
In a move that most would call a surprising, members of a Florida Senate Committee pulled a bill that would allow human trafficking survivors to sue Florida hotels and other businesses where they were sold for sex. The partnering House bill had already passed two committees and was headed to the House floor.
“This was a chance for our state leaders to take a stand against modern day slavery and they chose the hospitality lobby” says Haggard Law Firm Managing Partner Michael Haggard.
Haggard, who is the current president of the National Crime Victim's Bar Association, added “to say this is disappointing is a...
Our Michael Haggard will be one of the featured presenters during the upcoming 2018 National Drowning Prevention Alliance Educational Conference’s Aquatic Law Symposium. The objective of the symposium is to provide plaintiff and defense attorneys with information about principles and practices of aquatic law. The event will be held April 2nd to the 7th at the Marriott Waterside in Tampa. Haggard’s seminar “Developing Theories of Negligence Citing Important Litigation Cases by Firm” is scheduled for the morning session which begins at 8:50am on Saturday, April 7th.
The legal symposiums are certified by the Florida Bar and in every state via reciprocity agreement for CLE credits (8 Credits Available)
Michael Haggard’s Aquatic Law Experience
Michael Haggard and The Haggard Law Firm has a long history of successfully litigating cases involving drownings and near-drownings…
The Haggard Law Firm recognizes National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month throughout January. The Department of Defense defines Human Trafficking as” a crime in which force, fraud or coercion is used to compel a person to perform labor, services or commercial sex. It affects all populations: adults, children, men, women, foreign nationals and U.S. citizens, and all economic classes.”
Studies show that a large percentage of locations where sex trafficking takes place are commercial businesses like hotels, truck stops and massage parlors.. One survey found hotels and motels are the single-most common venue for sex trafficking in Florida during the first half of 2017. Experts say it is because the traffickers want to remain transient to avoid suspicion and arrest.”
The Haggard Law Firm's Michael Haggard has been invited to once again speak at the Florida Justice Association's Workhorse Seminar. Set to be held at the Orlando World Center Marriott, this Seminar is one of FJA's most popular learning events among attorneys throughout the state.
Haggard is scheduled to speak on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 between 8:30 am – 9:00 am. His topic for his Seminar is “Escaping Defense-created Liability Traps in the Handling of Negligent Security Injury and Death Cases.”
Haggard is a longtime member of the FJA and has served in multiple leadership positions over the years. Several months ago, he was recognized with the...
Make your plans now to join The Haggard Law Firm's Michael Haggard from December 5th to the 7th in Portland, Oregon for the 2017 National Crime Victims Bar Association's National Conference, Civil Actions for Criminal Acts. Haggard, the organization's President-elect will be among the speakers during the conference. The event offers attorneys a chance to network and learn from other attorneys in the field, and connect with victim advocates, counselors, program managers, attorneys, social workers, psychologists, researchers, nurses, volunteers, administrators, clergy, nonprofit managers, system-based service providers, and leaders from across the country.
Conference Training Highlights Include:
15 workshops and four plenary sessions covering topics...
Haggard told the paper “The Perry Nichols Award and the Best Lawyer Award are the greatest professional awards I have been honored to receive. Each is specifically gratifying proving someone with PKD is never limited in achieving their dreams and I hope that inspires others.”