As anyone who has not been living under a rock knows, it’s election season. Boy, is it! The Trump/Biden contention is one of the most – well – contentious in modern history. It’s a battle of two completely opposite and irreconcilable narratives:
Trump says he has performed brilliantly in fighting the coronavirus. Biden says he has failed miserably.
Trump says Biden is senile and incapable of governing. Biden says Trump is a narcissistic egoist whose every act is aimed at self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment.
Trump says Biden is a trojan horse who, if elected, will hand over the governing to liberal extremists. Biden says Trump is a white supremacist who is pouring gasoline on the flames of our racial divisions.
Trump says he created the greatest economy in the history of the world, and China with its virus is to blame for sending it all to hell in a handbasket. Biden says Trump’s economy helped only the rich get richer by giving them huge tax breaks while running up record deficits, and that Trump’s cavalier and reckless response to COVID made any minor gains come crashing down.
The “jury” for the Trump/Biden contention will be the American people.
Why do I bring all this election stuff up in a blog dedicated to New York personal injury law? Because an election is a macrocosm of what goes on in courtrooms all over the country every day. Just like in a political election, two competing narratives battle it out for the “vote” of the jury. Just like in a political election, the parties paint opposing narratives about what happened and who’s to blame. The jury, like voters, must decide which narrative is more credible, and thus who wins.
Let’s take a simple example: Mary slips and falls on an icy walkway at her apartment building. She aggravates an old back injury and now needs surgery. She sues the building’s owner.
Mary’s lawyer paints this narrative: “Defendant negligently failed to keep the walkway clear of ice and snow. The defendant was more interested in profits than the safety of its tenants. That’s why they did not bother salting and plowing on a regular basis. All they thought about was money. Innocent Mary comes a long and slips and falls and this totally upends her life.”
Defendant will paint a totally different narrative: “God causes snow and ice, not us. Everyone knows you have to watch for ice and snow in upstate New York in the winter. Plaintiff did not look where she was going. We do the best we can with salting and plowing, but the snow she slipped on fell only three hours before. Does plaintiff expect us to keep an employee stationed fulltime, 24-hours a day, on the property to remove every flake of snow as it falls? That’s not reasonable! We do the best we can. And by the way, all Mary’s problems stem from her pre-existing back injury. She and her greedy lawyers are now exaggerating her symptoms because they want money. Don’t believe them! Her back was already a wreck, and that’ s not our fault”.
As in a political election, in the courtroom the jury votes for the narrative they “buy” into. And that depends on all the facts of the case, and how skillfully the attorney presents them. But it also depends on something else: Who is more likeable. Jurys tend to “vote” for those they like and against those they don’t like. That’s why lawyers spend a lot of time in the courtroom trying to make their client “likeable” to the jury.
Biden and Trump do the same: They try to make themselves likeable. Trump wants to be liked for his strength and power. Biden for his empathy and compassion.
So who is going to win the “trial” between Trump and Biden? I don’t know, but I do know who YOU are voting for: The one you like best, or dislike least, and that’s likely also the one you believe the most, or disbelieve the least. How do I know? Because that’s what happens in the courtroom where I have spent a fair amount of time.
One more thing: Serving as a juror is an important civic duty. Every litigant has a right to have their case determined by a “jury of their peers” under our Constitution’s Seventh Amendment. Voting is also an important civic duty. Please vote!
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Syracuse NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.