Pretrial Process in the McKinney Dog Bite Case
In the post-discovery/pretrial phase of the dog bite case, the case is prepared for mediation or an assisted settlement conference. Part of preparing mediation, particularly when it is close to the trial, is making sure that the other side knows and understands that our side is ready to go to trial. The next step in this particular case was to file all the pretrial documents, motions in limine, and motions to pre-admit certain documents. The medical records and admissible forms were filed so that the other side knew that their medical records were going to come into evidence.
The animal control records were filed so that the other side knew that those records were going to come into evidence at the time of the trial, all of which was sending a not-so-subtle message that if this case is not settled, this side was ready for trial and fully prepared for everything.
The way to make sure a case is not going to go to trial and to ensure it is going to be settled is to be completely ready to go to trial. When one side knows that the other side is ready, that gives the prepared side leverage to get the value for the case and get it settled. If one side is ready, that increases their leverage to be able to settle the case. In this particular case, they did settle the case.
What Documents Were Filed in Preparation of Trial?
Most cases, including this case, require certain documents to be filed in the immediate workup before trial. One of the things filed is what is called a motion in limine. A motion in limine is a motion asking the judge to prevent the other side from bringing up an issue. They are typically filed to prevent things that they are supposed to be absolutely outside of the norm of the trial. For instance, if a client has a criminal conviction that is more than ten years old or a criminal conviction that is not a conviction of what they call a moral turpitude, those sorts of things are going to be subject to a motion in limine preventing those inadmissible issues from being heard by the jury.
If a client has something that the jury should not hear about because it would potentially create a bias, this could be addressed in a motion in limine. Sometimes a lawyer might file a motion to pre-admit evidence. There are good reasons to pre-admit evidence. The evidence already before the court, the lawyer had addressed any objections to certain evidence coming in by the preadmission process and, once it is already in front of the court, that evidence can be used in an opening statement.
An attorney could also propose a jury charge. A jury charge is simply the questions and the instructions that the judge gives the jury during the trial. All lawyers have an opportunity to file with the judge requests for various instructions and for various questions to be asked to the jury.
It is up to the judge to decide what to include and what not to include based on the evidence. Routinely, those questions and instructions or the request to these questions and instructions are filed before the lawsuit is started. If a judge has the opportunity to see those as the case is going and make adjustments, filing the jury instruction is one of the ways that one side knows that the other side is ready to go to trial as well.
A good piece of advice is to take a proposed jury instruction and prepare that even before the lawsuit is filed so that the lawyer knows what needs to be proven before they do their depositions.
Another action to do before trial is to file an exhibit list. These exhibit lists are the exhibits that come into trial. A lawyer can file objections for the other side’s exhibit list if necessary, but plaintiffs tend to have very few or none. Defendants, on the other hand, almost always have objections to the plaintiffs’ exhibits because they have the burden of proof. If they can knock out the exhibits, they can potentially win the trial.
The final step of the pretrial process is deposition cuts. There are times that a person is expected to be called by deposition. When they are called by deposition, then parts of the deposition are played back for the jury as evidence in the case. Those cuts all have to be made so that the full deposition does not have to be played, since that sometimes lasts hours when all that is needed is 15 minutes of testimony for the trial. The deposition cuts are exchanged with the other side. That lets one side know that the other side is prepared for trial.