Professionalism and trial practice

Twigs and rocks may … something like that.

A New Jersey appellate Court reversed a trial court decision on the grounds, at least in part, that the plaintiff’s attorney engaged in appropriate name calling, or as the Court put it much more colorfully, “untoward indecorous remarks.”

The case arose out of a motor vehicle incident in which a 17 year old female was let off a bus about .3 miles from her correct stop, and then hit by a drunk driver on the way home.  The drunk driver settled, and the trial continued against the bus company.

Admittedly, there were some other bright line appellate issues, such as the improper use of a “send a message” argument during the compensatory damage part of the trial’s closing.  But the professionalism of the plaintiff’s counsel was a major theme of the opinion that may have influenced a finding of harmful versus non-harmful error.  As the Court said at one point:  “Suggesting counsel’s line of questioning is ‘stupid,’ merely because one disagrees is offensive and unprofessional.  Puerile name-calling is condemned.”

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can get a new trial.

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