Drinking Deeply

Wednesday, August 24, 2005 at 12:40 AM

Civil Obedience (2)

Wow, that case was really weird. Some further thoughts:

The law for civil cases (one person suing another) is that it is necessary to prove more likely than not (51%). This led to an interesting circumstance as it seemed that the defense had cast a great shadow of doubt upon the argument, but it remained that the most likely cause (51%) was the defendant, thus we were compelled by law to rule against the defendant, though it was very clear that the total fault of the defendant was very minimal. If I had to apportion blame, it would be no more than 10%.

Unfortunately the law required the prosecutor only prove a few things: 1) Defendant was negligent. 2) Prosecutor suffered harm. 3) The defendant's negligence was the proximal cause (a cause that through natural or probable sequence led to the harm suffered). 1 and 2 were clear and 3 was very unclear, but since it only required 3 to be more likely than not to be true, it was proven (though not by the prosecutor, more on this later).

Thus because of the definitions set forth by the law, we found the defendant at fault (though in all honesty if it were up to me, the fault would not be that much). This led to a 24,000 settlement. A lot of money for a little bit of fault in my opinion. Thankfully they had insurance that was going to cover it. That was a load off of my back.

A note on the prosecutor: It seemed that he (being young) was unclear on how he approached the case. Point 3 could have been hammered home with two simple questions with a witness that they had already called. Then the verdict would have been clear and it could have saved the jury an extra 4 hours (we spent 5.5 hours deliberating and 1.5 hours coming up with the compensation). Most of what was established by him was eventually disregarded, because those issues were not in question. Or what was established took far to long to prove an uncontested point. Alas alas.

All in all, it was quite the experience. I have a great deal of sympathy for judges. Oftentimes it felt like we were operating on a very limited amount of information, and with a little bit more research, could have come up with much clearer conclusions. Unfortunately that was all we were given. Thankfully, we got a chance to talk to the judge afterwards, and he said he had pretried the case and come up with $25k, but the prosecutor wanted more, so they went to a jury. We came up with $24,227. Cool beans

Hopefully, justice was done. I hope and pray that God has used me (and the jury) for His purposes in setting out justice, and not injustice.

Oh, the case itself (since I'm allowed to talk about it now) was as follows:

A woman was packing in her Christmas stuff with a candle lit on the 30 of December. Some tissue paper caught on fire (it was piled up around the candle, negligence) and she threw it to the ground and put it out. Turned around and there was some more tissue paper on fire. She ran to the fire extinguisher in the hallway of the condo and all of a sudden there was a blast of heat with a large fire. She ran away. The fire set off sprinklers and the room across the hall was severely damaged by the water after being remodeled just a few months ago. Because of a lack of insurance (which was revealed to us later), the owner of the room across the hall sued for damages.

Prosecutor proved negligence, proved harm suffered, but then the connection between the negligence and the water sprinkler going off was iffy. Where did this explosion come from? The evidence seemed to point to some accelerant or vapor in the air from between the hallways, but the table with the candles (and source of the fire) was relatively undamaged compared to the living room (which was 10-15 feet away) which was ... toast. Plus the glass was blown out of the apartment across the hall and the railing blown off. Thus the connection was iffy, but it was more likely than not. Prosecutor claimed for 60 thousand, but we awarded 24,227.

Quite the interesting case. Kind of makes me want to become a lawyer (I can do better than that kid! =p). Cool beans.

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