Employers large and small have a responsibility to the public to ensure that anyone they put behind the wheel of a vehicle has a safe driving record. When that vehicle is a 25-ton garbage truck, there is no question that safety should be of the utmost importance. When Republic Services put Julio Cortez-Solano behind the wheel of one of their trucks, knowing full well that he had violations on his record, and actually having fired him previously, they put the safety of the public at risk. Unfortunately, the victim of their mistake happened to be an 11-year old girl who believed that when the crosswalk showed the WALK signal that she was safe to cross. As Cortez-Solano approached the intersection to make a right-hand turn, he saw two young girls waiting to cross the street. Rather than pause and make sure it was safe, he went right into the turn. At about the same time, the WALK signal was displayed and the girls thought it was safe to cross, that traffic would wait. Sadly, the garbage truck was already barreling through the crosswalk as the young girl stepped into it, and she lost her life. Mr. Claggett came to Focus Graphics to make some unique pieces for use in the trial, one of which was a fillable version of Republic Service’s own root cause analysis form which he “filled out” with one of the Republic Service leadership staff on the stand to illustrate how to properly fill out the form, something that wasn’t done correctly at the time of the collision. This exercise resulted in the jury hearing firsthand that Republic Services’ belief was that the whole incident was the fault of the 11-year old girl, and that no responsibility lay with the company or the driver. The jury, after 10 days of evidence and testimony, did not agree. They awarded almost $39 million, vastly different from the initial offer of $250,000 and the pretrial offer of $1 million.
“There is no doubt that being prepared with not only expert witnesses, but with well thought-out demonstratives, goes a long way with a jury. These cases that have been part of our daily work for months, and sometimes years, are brand new to the members of a jury, and we ask them to basically drink water through a fire hose with how much information we throw at them in a short period of time. Anything I can do to simplify that for them is to the benefit of my case, and I lean heavily on Focus Graphics to create simple ways for me to communicate to the jury. In this case particularly, the root cause analysis form marked a turning point for me, something I wasn’t anticipating, but took full advantage of to the benefit of my client. No matter the case, being prepared with the right demonstratives will always benefit your case, and Focus Graphics is my go-to.”
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