Every trial involves two things that play out simultaneously before the jury. First, a trial involves a "search for truth." Second, a trial involves a "morality play."
Medical malpractice trials involve issues of medicine and science that are difficult for attorneys to present and for juries to understand. They require juries to get into the details of difficult, specialized and esoteric issues of science. At the same time, the morality play that a jury watches during a trial which is going on simultaneously with the presentation of data, plays out in a high level of generality. When juries watch the morality play unfold, they concentrate not on data, but drama. Most of the time, the drama involved in the morality play concerns issues of credibility. Jurors are persuaded by data, but they are also persuaded by the drama that they witness during a trial.
The more complex the issues in dispute are at trial, the more likely it will be that the result will come down to the morality play that takes place before the jury. There are several reasons for this. To begin with, people are not designed to make decisions solely in an objective fashion, it is not how we operate. Additionally, jurors are usually not schooled in the technical issues that are at stake in any given case. In fact, if they are, they are usually dismissed from juror service. Complicated issues of medicine or science are usually outside the scope of a juror's everyday-experience. When a juror has to process information beyond his scope of knowledge and outside of his personal experience, he becomes more dependent on what he hears from witnesses and lawyers when charged with making a decision. At the same time, because he is less capable of deciding whether the evidence he is evaluating makes sense, issues of credibility, whether real or apparent, become magnified.
In medical malpractice trials attorneys have to address more than the details of the science to allow the jury to engage in its search for truth. Attention must also be paid to the morality play the jury is watching, so that any credibility questions in your position are dealt with and the credibility problems in the position of your adversary are exposed.
This article discusses how to prepare for the morality play that occurs during a trial as it pertains to expert witnesses. Expert witnesses are governed by a strict code of ethics which requires them to perform an objective analysis. Despite this, every medical malpractice case that goes to trial, will have two sets of experts who review the same set of facts and come to completely different conclusions.
Assuming that you selected your case correctly and that you should win on the facts, the experts on the other side of the aisle have taken a position that is intellectually dishonest. This paper is a roadmap for how to expose dishonest expert analyses in front of the jury. Use these steps to not simply explain why the conclusions of your adversary's expert are incorrect, but to demonstrate to the jury why the experts disregarded their ethical obligations in order to advocate a position for the other side.