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158 – Malorie Peacock – A Case is About the Jurors: Winning a Tough Wrongful Death Case

In trial, you have to be ready and just accept the fact that things are never going to be perfect. They’re never going to go the way you planned it. 

In this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Michael Cowen and Malorie Peacock share their strategies (as well as the hiccups they overcame) from their recent $4M verdict on a trucking wrongful death case, where only 10% of the fault was put on their client for rear-ending a tractor trailer. They detail how they “armed their experts” so that the jury wasn’t skeptical of expert testimony in this expert-heavy case. They also share how they successfully minimized comparative fault, and how they presented damages in a way that made an emotional impact. The episode wraps up with a discussion on the value of the healing aspect of the trial process for clients. 

Don’t miss out! Big Rig Bootcamp takes place on July 12, 2024 in San Antonio, Texas. Register at bigrigbootcamp.com.  

Featured Guest

Name: Malorie J Peacock

About: Malorie J Peacock is a Partner at Cowen Rodriguez Peacock. She was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and received her J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center. During her time with Cowen Rodriguez Peacock, Malorie has worked on numerous commercial vehicle, trucking, and wrongful death cases. Malorie brings close attention to detail, commitment to finding safety issues and areas of neglect, continued utilization of technology and cutting-edge visuals in cases, along with a sincere passion to help those who have been hurt, to each and every case.

Company: Cowen Rodriguez Peacock

Connect: LinkedIn

Episode Highlights 

[02:18] 30,000-Foot View of the Case:  A driver of an 18 wheeler ran over something in a roadway that disconnected her airlines to her braking system in her truck. The driver panicked and stopped her vehicle on a major highway in Dallas at 10pm at night. Michael and Malorie’s client’s son didn’t see her in the roadway, and unfortunately, ran into her and died. 

[07:15] Rehearsing Jury Selection and Opening Statement: In order to be seamless and avoid using a bunch of notes, you have to practice, says Malorie. Michael explains how they used the rehearsals to test their advocacy. Did people understand them? Was their story persuasive? Was their theory convincing? These rehearsals were right before trial and separate from the focus groups they did on the case.

[10:39] Challenges in Jury Selection: Due to the Court’s orders, Michael and Malorie couldn’t talk about the facts of the case and they couldn’t even say it was a trucking case or a wrongful death case. The judge was also still following COVID restrictions, so with social distancing between jurors and Michael and Malorie speaking from a podium, it was difficult to connect with jurors. However, they pivoted their strategy and made it work. 

[21:05] The First Witness: Michael and Malorie called the defendant driver first. “We couldn’t call her a liar,” says Michael. “The jury needed to, through the course of the trial, come to their own conclusion that she was not telling the truth.”

[24:52] Strategy for an Expert-Intense Case: With all the expert testimony, Michael and Malorie didn’t want the jury to think ‘well, they’re just saying whatever they want because they paid them.’ To avoid that, Michael and Malorie armed their experts with anchors and testing. 

[27:15] Demonstrating Airbrake Function: Michael and Malorie did their own testing where they got an 18 wheeler with a tractor and a trailer, and they pulled an airbrake when it was going 50-something miles per hour to show that it would not just make the truck immediately come to a stop, contrary to the defense’s story.

[31:54] Motivating the Jury to Award Damages: Malorie explains how you want enough witnesses to tell your story, but not so much that it’s emotionally exhausting for the jury, because if you exhaust the jury then they get annoyed with you.

[39:53] Comparative Fault Argument: Michael shares his unique approach of comparing the time each party had in the accident, which helped minimize their client’s percentage of fault.

[42:08] Damages Presentation: Malorie vividly describes her method of illustrating damages by physically tearing a picture of the deceased, to symbolize the persistent pain experienced by the parents.

[44:43] The Healing Aspect of Trial: Michael and Malorie touch on the healing aspect of the trial for the client, emphasizing the importance of clients being heard and validated.

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In this popular and award-winning podcast for trial lawyers, noteworthy author, sought-after speaker, and renowned trial lawyer, Michael Cowen explores critical topics distinctive to the legal profession with some of the biggest names in the industry – specifically focused on developing extremely efficient law practices, securing a competitive edge in the industry, and wildly excelling in the courtroom.

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