Clay Dugas recently published a very informative article in The Lawyer’s Logbook, a magazine published for plaintiff lawyers who focus on the area of interstate trucking litigation. This achievement is particularly important because it acts as a warning to Clay Dugas’ peers within the trucking litigation community, who might otherwise inadvertently bias a jury against their clients. The article enumerates key points about how arguing a violation of too many Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) can actually be counter-productive to a case because it may create an over-regulation bias in the jury.
The article discuss the importance of FMCSR and the prominent role it plays in nearly all trucking litigation cases. It then goes on to show how the general public is opposed to extreme government regulation and how smaller, independent trucking companies in particular may evoke the sympathy of jurors who perceive them as being victims themselves, squelched by over-regulation, as opposed to recognizing the role these small companies may have played in victimizing and harming others through their negligence or non-compliance with regulations.
Clay Dugas then continues the article by providing concrete, positive examples of how to take a more productive tack which will not prejudice jurors. He cites the Rules of the Road approach, as expressed by Rick Friedman and Patrick Malone, which states that any violation argued by the prosecution should be comprised of the following five attribute:
- 1. A requirement that the defendant do, or not do, something;
- 2. Easy for the jury to understand;
- 3. A requirement the defense cannot credibly dispute;
- 4. A requirement the defendant has violated; and
- 5. Important enough in the context of the case that the proof of its violation will significantly increase the chance of a plaintiff’s verdict.
Jurors prefer a “monocausality” explanation of the accident in which a single cause leads to a single effect (the accident) as opposed to a more convoluted multi-causal explanation in which several factors may have contributed to varying degrees in causing the accident. To further illustrate his point, Clay Dugas discusses a hypothetical example in which improper braking lead to a rear-end collision, and how the regulation requiring a pre-trip inspection by the trucker directly fits all five criteria cited above in the Rules of the Road approach. Further, he indicates that if the trucking company was also guilty of negligently hiring the trucker in the first place, that it would not be productive to also argue this second point because there would be a danger that it might obfuscate the case, confuse the jury, and elicit sympathy for the trucking company due to perceived over-regulation.
Clay Dugas and the rest of Dugas Law Firm are strongly committed to championing the legal rights of trucking accident victims. A fundamental part of the process is in delivering the most powerful, compelling presentation of facts to the jury as possible. By focusing on factors in this article that can unintentionally weaken a case, such as an over-regulation bias by the jury, Clay Dugas has provided outstanding, informative information to his peers within the legal community and has empowered them to better champion the rights of their own clients.