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The Top 10 Litigation Articles of 2018

It's my eighth year writing an end-of-year top-10 style article. That feels pretty great because in that time, we have published more than 600 articles and A2L's Litigation Consulting Report blog has been visited one million times. Wow, right?

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A couple of years ago, I was involved in running a genetics conference focused on using genetics as a defense tactic in civil cases, much in the way that DNA evidence is used in criminal cases. I've been working with experts in this field ever since. A few months back, I wrote an article about the clever use by plaintiffs of litigation graphics and genetics in the baby powder (talc) cases (see Some Lessons for Defendants From the Talc Liability Trials), including a $4 billion verdict against a major talc manufacturer. When I write about various types of cases, I often hear from lawyers who handle the types of cases I write about. On my post on the use of genetics evidence in the talc litigation, how many talc defense lawyers do you think I heard from? If you guessed zero, you'd be exactly right. And that's a problem. Not ready to accept that this is a problem for defendants? Then I will ask whether the plaintiffs’ talc bar was similarly unresponsive. As you can probably guess from the way I posed the question, the answer is no. Out of discretion, I won't say exactly who or how many responded, but it was more than zero. Even though there is more to gain for the defense bar from understanding and leveraging these critical tools, it’s the plaintiffs’ lawyers who are most active in the field, striving to improve their approach. From the defense bar — crickets. And that's the problem I'm seeing in the way some of these talc cases are being defended. Defense counsel appear to be playing defense – and completely ignoring the key point that the best defense in litigation is a good offense. These verdicts are having an impact on the companies involved. Last Friday, on December 14, 2018, shares of Johnson & Johnson fell 10 percent and were set to have their largest percentage drop in more than 16 years, after Reuters reported that the company knew for decades that there was some asbestos in its baby powder. Yesterday, December 18, 2018, Johnson and Johnson ran the full page ad seen here in an attempt to manage this growing crisis. For trial lawyers and litigation consulting firms like ours, these asbestos allegations are not new or surprising. It's what plaintiff's have alleged recently and have used to prevail in these cases. The surprising thing in these cases is defense counsel's unnecessarily passive approach. When products are accused of causing harm, defense lawyers often choose one of the following defense strategies: Assert the harm was caused by something else but we don’t know what (the “idiopathic” defense) Assert the harm was caused by something else and we know exactly what. Typically, most defendants have chosen the ‘we don’t know what other thing caused it’ strategy because it avoids giving up the favorable allocation of the burden of proof and assuming the very specific (and often difficult) burden of proving an alternative cause – much as criminal defendants take advantage of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. Not surprisingly, this argument generally falls flat. Recently, the plaintiffs’ bar won a multi-billion-dollar verdict by asserting that there is asbestos in talc and that it causes mesothelioma. This is highly improbable for several logical reasons — but jurors tend to follow emotion first and logic second when deliberating. If asbestos is present in baby powder at all, it would be in such small amounts that one could not reasonably connect mesothelioma to it. If defense counsel asserts (as they have been) that the mesothelioma was caused by some other identified source of asbestos, and not by talc, that leaves jurors without the necessary tools to argue for a defense verdict during deliberations. So, what if defense counsel could instead prove that the plaintiff’s mesothelioma was caused by something other than asbestos in baby powder? Something identifiable, measurable, and specific. Using modern genetics, this is now possible. And it is a major sea change.

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We are delighted to announce the publication of a new free e-book, the Trial Lawyer’s Guide to Environmental, Toxic Tort, and Product Liability Litigation, 3rd Edition. It is a guide to all the issues and all the possibilities that can come up in environmental, toxic tort, and product liability litigation – whether related to PowerPoint, scientific expert witnesses, competing scientific theories, body language, or any of a myriad of questions that can come up in this complex field. This is the third edition of a book that we first released in 2011. We have dramatically expanded the scope and the depth of the book to add dozens of new and relevant articles, including articles on the importance of litigation graphics in toxic tort litigation and on demonstrative evidence in product liability and failure-to-warn cases. The book is now 256 pages long and packed with valuable articles. Environmental, toxic tort, and product liability cases have similar challenges. Each typically involves disputes over science and often results in a battle of expert witnesses. As a result, these cases are some of the hardest cases to litigate. These cases can include technical issues similar to patent cases, scientific elements similar to pharmaceutical cases, and damages issues similar to construction cases. In addition, for many jurors, these cases are fraught with political ramifications in a way that many other cases are not. Jurors often harbor a basic belief that if a big company is on trial, it has probably harmed people or the environment in pursuit of profits and has caused long-term damage to people and the planet – either by directly causing human health effects, polluting the air, water, or ground, or by contributing to global warming. It is important for a lawyer representing such a company to overcome jurors’ biases and to do so while keeping the case from seeming dull and boring. If you are to be successful litigating these cases, you have to be among the best in the profession. The natural complexity of these cases means that demonstrative evidence must be used extensively, jury consulting is often appropriate, and the use of trial technicians allows you to focus on maintaining your connection with the jury – rather than staying connected to the technology. This e-book will help you better prepare to litigate environmental, toxic tort, and product liability cases. From making the most of your mock trial, to managing trial team psychology, to specific demonstrative examples, there is something in here for all trial lawyers. I hope you enjoy this book and will take a moment to share some feedback by contacting me. If you ever have a question about how to prepare an environmental, toxic tort, or product liability case anywhere in the world, please ask. You may download the book by clicking this link or by clicking the download button below.

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by Tony B. Klapper, Managing Director, Litigation Consulting & GC, A2L Consulting and David H. Schwartz, Ph.D., Co-Founder, Innovative Science Solutions 

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  by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting We have long participated in a joint publishing effort with Innovative Science Solutions (ISS), a company that provides strategic consulting services designed to ensure that you are prepared and knowledgeable about scientific and technical issues relevant to your case. A2L has partnered with ISS for the benefit of many law firms and corporations. We have already had the pleasure of working together on everything from tobacco litigation to hydraulic fracturing to alleged health effects of cell phones. Along the way, we have learned, often by overcoming enormous challenges, how to make science your ally -- whether inside or outside the courtroom. Today, A2L and ISS have just published the new and revised second edition of their e-book, The Litigator’s Guide to Combating Junk Science. The book is built on the following important concepts:

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  by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting Not every page, blog article, webinar or e-book on A2L Consulting's site is right for everyone. As the saying goes, what is everyone's favorite radio station? WII – FM, of course. Otherwise known as "what's in it for me?" With hundreds of articles, dozens of e-books and hundreds of other pages, A2L's website has over 2,500 pages of valuable content. Sometimes, finding materials that are specific to your litigation practice area or need can be a challenge with all the available options. You can search A2L's site or even browse by topic area using a topic list in the sidebar of every blog post. In spite of this, I still hear from a lot of people who wonder whether we have experience working in their specific practice area or where they can find useful information related to their practice. I wrote this article to highlight some very useful information organized by practice area below. I've broken down the practice areas into 14 topics that cover most of the work we do. The alphabetical list with links under each topic should prove helpful when looking for the information most relevant to you.

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Demonstratives can frequently be used very effectively in product liability litigation, in which the issue is whether a product was manufactured negligently, causing harm – or in some cases, whether a product that was manufactured and used properly still caused harm to a consumer that leads to liability on the part of the manufacturer or seller.

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As one can imagine, automobiles are the subject of a good deal of complex litigation these days -- whether the case has to do with the validity of a patent for use in the manufacture of an automobile, the possible liability of an auto manufacturer for an accident, a class action claiming a design defect in a certain model of car, or another legal issue. Automobiles present interesting challenges for the trial graphics consultant. On the one hand, nearly everyone has driven a car, and many people think of themselves as fairly knowledgeable in auto mechanics (while they would not fancy themselves as computer or jet-engine experts, for example). On the other hand, today’s vehicles are incredibly complicated items with sophisticated computer systems and electronics. 

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