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Texas Multimedia Litigation Article 

 

The Use of Technology & Multimedia in Litigation: Video, Photos, and Graphics Bring Facts to Life

BY JASON COOMER, Willie Buehler, AND Michele Mckeever
 
 
"Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimension."
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes

In today's modern world, we are receiving information at a much faster pace than at any other time in history. More and more information comes at us every day through technology such as computers, cell phones, cable television, and video.  We are able to process much of this increased information because many time it combines auditory with visual components giving us multiple perceptions of the same message.

Studies have shown that people pay closer attention and more information is retained if the information comes through more than one sense such as both auditory and visual. In fact, that is how many of us now prefer to receive most of our information. Where it was once common and interesting to just listen to a radio show or to listen to someone orally give a speech, these modes of communication just don’t keep our attention anymore. We are used to hearing and seeing much more.

In litigation, Judges, Jurors, Mediators, and Arbitrators are typically the same.  They respond positively to seeing video, photos, time lines, graphics, and other multimedia along with an oral presentation of a case, instead of receiving an oral narrative of the same facts. It gives them a much better understanding of what happened and why they should rule for one side or another.  It also can bring the facts of a case to life.

The use of technology is especially important in cases where there is quite a bit of dry or complicated information to digest like commercial real estate, intellectual property, malpractice, or probate disputes. Using multimedia conveys a much higher level of understanding and interaction with the judge and jury than just passive listening.

Further, most people including judges and juries are used to receiving new stories via television with auditory and visual messages as to what has happened.  Many of my clients think things are true just because they saw it on television.  As such, converting your case to presentations and combining visual messages to your case, can often add credibility to your case.

As a Texas litigation lawyer, I have used multimedia effectively in a variety of litigation claims including commercial real estate, automobile accident, residential fire, toxic exposure, wrongful death, and intellectual property claims to convey my clients' cases. It has had a significant impact on my cases, and typically puts pressure on the other side to use multimedia in presenting their case. When the other side fails to use any multimedia the difference is obvious. Typically, it is evident through the faces of the jurors, judge, arbitrator, mediator, and the clients.  Without a presentation, they have a shorter attention span.  With a presentation, clients believe that their cases are being handled well.

In a recent commercial real estate litigation trial where there was over
$10 million dollars on the line, the opposing litigation team attempted to orally explain hundreds of documents to a jury. Though the jury and judge tried to follow along, they were lost about ten to fifteen minutes into each reading of the  documents. When our side presented our case, we would project the key documents on the wall beside the jury and they were able to see the document as each witness testified as to what the document said. The jury and judge intently followed along and eventually ruled for our side. Though we had good facts in this case, it was important to make sure that the information was conveyed to the jury and judge in a way that they could easily understand it. The use of technology allowed us to do this.

In preparing multimedia for trial, arbitration, a hearing, or mediation, there are several types of presentation software that can be used and each has its advantages and disadvantages. The most commonly used software is Powerpoint. Powerpoint is a powerful presentation software that comes with all versions of MS-Office 2007 and is currently free in beta version. It is most effective at mediation, in some hearings, and at trial in opening and closing. Powerpoint is versatile, but is a linear program that is difficult to change or alter on the fly. If you know what you are going to say and you will be moving from Point A to Point B to Point C, Powerpoint is the program for you. In its current version, it is fairly easy to pull slides in and out of a presentation, but a bit more difficult to jump from slide to slide, if you are not going in linear order or expect the judge to throw you some curves.

In order to move from slide to slide, trial software such as Visionary, Trial Director, and Sanction can be used. These programs have the ability to store documents, depositions, videos, images, and other multimedia, so they can easily be brought up during witness testimony or if something unexpected arises. They give you the ability to search text or video and display portions of a deposition for effective impeachment of a witness. These programs are a bit more advanced and it takes some time to learn the features including how to operate dual screens, loading documents, loading videos, building issues, and navigating information. Once you are familiar with these features though, information can be pulled up on the fly and can be used effectively to convey information to a jury and judge.

To capture the attention of a jury, judge, arbitrator, or mediator, it is important to use multiple channels of communication that includes both visual and auditory information. New presentation software has made this easier than ever before and its use will only become more common. Using just the traditional method of an oral argument to argue a case will become less common and could put your client at a major disadvantage. Jurors, Judges, and Arbitrators want to be informed in an easy to understand and memorable way and your clients want their cases conveyed in the most effective method possible. Using multimedia in your cases, especially the mid sized claims to the very large claims, will not only help you better convey your clients' cases to juries, judges, arbitrators, and mediators, but it may spare you that look from a client when the other side uses the technology against you.
 


Jason Coomer is an Austin lawyer works with other attorneys on complex litigation claims including large fires, commercial business to business disputes, toxic torts, catastrophic injury & death claims, probate matters, and technology litigation.

Michele McKeever is an Austin Real Estate Agent, Environmentalist, and Information Specialist.  She runs http://www.atxproperty.com and http://www.austinhealthresource.com websites and writes on a variety of topics.

Willie Buehler
is an information technology & media specialist with trial, arbitration, mediation, and case management experience.  He is also a professional photographer and webmaster.  He has written on legal & technology issues.

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Austin Multimedia Litigation Lawyer Jason Coomer provides complex litigation claims including business litigation, catastrophic injury, mass tort, and wrongful death injury litigation.  For questions on this article, hiring a multimedia litigation team, or legal services, please e-mail Austin lawyer Jason S. Coomer at multimedialitigation@texaslawyers.com


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Law Offices of Jason S. Coomer, PLLC
406 Sterzing, Second Floor
Austin, TX 78704
Toll Free: (512) 474-1477
Phone: (866) 474-1477
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