April 12th, 2017
Choosing the Right Legal Expert
The bad news: your company has been sued. The good news: the facts of the case are on your side, and if everyone does their job properly, your company will almost certainly win. It will take a lot of hard work and diligence from plenty of people, but the odds are in your favor, and hopefully you already have a great team assembled and prepared to enter the litigation battlefield. But what if you don’t already have these people in place? What kind of people do you need on your team? What are their roles? And how, exactly, are they going to help you successfully defend this lawsuit?
First and foremost, you need an attorney with fenestration and glass experience and resources to captain your team. An attorney with connections and knowledge in the industry is the most valuable thing you can have when preparing for complex litigation where your company’s existence could be on the line. You also need competent employees, installers and manufacturers to testify on behalf of your company to show that you followed the protocol and standards at all stages of the project. That brings us to the third and final invaluable piece of the litigation puzzle: Experts.
I often spend more time trying to find the best expert(s) for a case than I do on just about any other aspect of trial preparation. Fenestration litigation is complex, and the ultimate outcome often comes down to the proverbial “battle of the experts.” Therefore, I always make sure my clients have the biggest and best arsenal. What do I look for? What kind of people do we need on our side to make sure we come out on top? What defines a quality expert?
Who to Choose
In my experience, most experts fall into one of two categories, which brings us to our first expert profile: Dr. Harvard. Dr. Harvard resembles a college professor, graduated from an Ivy League school at the top of his class, and has personally memorized the “Window and Door Installation Bible” cover-to-cover. We need Dr. Harvard. He establishes the foundation that allows your attorney to build and construct a presentable and sound legal foundation to a panel of jurors. Dr. Harvard illustrates his immense knowledge to the jury with extreme attention to detail and razor-sharp precision. His behind-the-scenes testimony shows the jury how complex it can be to install various products within various wall systems. The problem: the jury has no idea what Dr. Harvard is talking about.
This brings us to the second category of expert: Joe Workingman. I refer to these experts as “boots on the ground” people. Mr. Workingman isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Joe is the kind of expert who has been a regional project manager for 28 years, has personally installed thousands of windows, and has overseen hundreds of projects. Joe Workingman is the kind of expert jurors like, believe and appreciate.
So who do we go with: Dr. Joseph Harvard or Mr. Joe Workingman? In order to ensure the best chances of proving our case and preventing your company from incurring massive liability, I typically recommend both. In order to effectively do my job properly and defend your interests to the best of my ability, I need both to “tell the story,” showing your company followed every policy and procedure at each stage of the process. This includes the manufacturing, delivery and installation of your quality products.
What Works Best?
It’s possible the jury deciding the fate of your company could be composed of a doctor, sitting next to a mechanic, sitting next to a postal worker, sitting next to a professional bull-fighter. Juries are diverse. If we are to succeed, we must diversify our expert testimony. What we want more than anything is for a jury to say, “I liked that guy,” or better yet, “I believe that person.” Extracting that emotion and reaction from a group of 12 randomly assembled Americans can be a daunting task.
Juries are complex and unpredictable. Even if the facts weigh strongly in your favor, having experts that can relate to a wide range of people is an invaluable resource that can make all the difference in the outcome of a trial that could decide the future of your company. Choosing the proper counsel can be an extremely difficult decision, but if you take your time, and choose the right person, it may be the only tough decision you have to make during the litigation process. If you put your trust in the right counsel, they can ensure the future of your “business glass” stays half-full.
Chip Gentry is a founding member of Call & Gentry Law Group in Jefferson City, Mo. He can be reached at email@example.com.