Hiring an Experienced Trial Attorney Is Important to Your Case
If you have a claim for personal injuries, hiring an experienced trial attorney can be very important. It can only increase your likelihood of obtaining a favorable recovery.
In one case, Mildred Anne Holloway went to a Kroger supermarket on February 5, 2010, which was a rainy day. As she reached for a shopping cart in the store foyer she slipped and fell, landing on her back and sustaining injuries. She filed suit against Kroger alleging that the store had been negligent in failing to keep its premises and approaches safe.
The store manager who responded to the scene noticed that water had dripped onto the floor from the shopping carts. Plaintiff Holloway testified that the floor was slippery and shiny.
The store manager testified that several “wet floor” caution signs had been placed near the entrance, plus special slip-resistant flooring had been installed in the foyer.
Following trial in Fulton County Superior Court, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendant Kroger.
Plaintiff Holloway appealed, claiming she was entitled to a new trial. The Georgia Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Holloway v. The Kroger Company, No. A15A2300 (Ga. App., Feb. 12, 2016).
Plaintiff first claimed that defense counsel made an inappropriate statement during closing argument. He told the jury that if Kroger had not exercised ordinary care, some safety expert would have testified—someone like Juror No. 12 (who had not been impaneled). Juror No. 12 was an adviser to companies on how to reduce their risk.
The Court of Appeals stated that Defense counsel’s reference to Juror No. 12 was improper. But Plaintiff did not object and, without an objection, the standard was whether there was a reasonable probability that the improper argument changed the result of the trial. Juror No. 12 had been stricken, and it was obvious to the jury that no expert had testified. The Court of Appeals determined Plaintiff had not shown that the improper statement was likely to have changed the result of the trial.
Plaintiff claimed a second improper statement had been made by Defense counsel during closing argument. Plaintiff’s daughter Denae had taken photographs at the scene with her cell phone, but these photographs had not been admitted into evidence. Defense counsel told the jury that Denae had taken pictures. But before counsel could say anything else, an admonition was issued by the trial judge. Counsel was told not to make any further reference to pictures that were not in evidence, and to move on to the next part of the closing argument.
At trial Plaintiff’s other daughter Diandra testified that her sister Denae had taken pictures. According to the Court of Appeals, this evidence of the existence of the pictures given during trial meant that reference to the pictures during closing argument was proper.
Again, Plaintiff had failed to object to this statement when made during closing argument. The Court of Appeals found no reasonable probability that any impropriety in the closing argument affected the jury’s verdict.
Finally Plaintiff claimed the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury that arguments of counsel do not constitute evidence. As before, Plaintiff failed to raise any objection to the trial court’s jury instructions.
The Court of Appeals stated that there must be a substantial error in the charge to the jury which is harmful as a matter of law. This means the losing party must have been deprived of a fair trial, or that there has been a gross injustice.
At the beginning of trial, the judge instructed the jury that statements of counsel were not evidence. During the final charge, the judge told the jury that evidence consisted of witness testimony and exhibits, but not the questions or objections of counsel, or the statements or comments of the judge.
The Georgia Court of Appeals concluded that even if the final charge to the jury was insufficient, it was not so blatantly prejudicial as to deprive Plaintiff of a fair trial.