Sands Anderson Lawyers Prevail Using Pioneering Technology in the Courtroom

Published on: 4/19/2005

We live in an age dominated by rapid advances in technology. It should therefore come as no surprise that the effective use of technology can have a dramatic effect on the pools of people who serve as jurors. Studies show that more and more of today's jurors grew up on videogames, the internet, and a wide variety of multi-media entertainment. Gone are the days when jurors were satisfied to see only the lawyer speaking, or to view only enlarged still photographs. Today's jurors are not only more comfortable receiving multi-media information, they expect and prefer it. Jury persuasion requires that jurors be interested in what is being said. That interest is created and kept by the presentation of evidence in a form that is entertaining and dynamic.

In a case involving a number of technological "firsts," two attorneys from Sands Anderson Marks & Miller, Pierce Rucker and Ken Roeber, recently completed the successful defense of a complex medical malpractice case that benefited greatly from technology used to educate and persuade the jury.

The case involved an allegation of negligent management of a patient presenting to an emergency department in atrial fibrillation and rapid ventricular response, with a history that included a syncopal episode after the patient awoke with left-sided chest discomfort and went to the bathroom. Based upon the history that was related to the physician as well as the pertinent positive and negative findings on examination, the treating emergency physician worked the patient up for stroke prophylaxis and acute coronary syndrome - including ordering the anti-coagulant Heparin. Nearly three hours later, the patient began to display neurologic deficits. A stat head CT was positive for two intracerebral hemorrhages, which ultimately resulted in severe and permanent disability to the patient.

The Plaintiff's theory was: (1) he had suffered a minor traumatic brain injury, including a possible microvascular hemorrhage or contusion, which developed into a large ICH as a result of the allegedly negligent administration of Heparin without first clearing him with a head CT; and (2) his cardiac condition did not require urgent anti-coagulation.

During the process of preparing this complex case for trial, Pierce and Ken recognized that they could better educate the jury using technology. Several medical records, including CT scans, were scanned into an electronic format so that they could be displayed in sequence using a computer. Certain images had portions graphically highlighted and certain CT scan images were either enlarged or repositioned for comparison. They also appreciated that active graphic images with cut-aways would help the jury understand a number of the medical issues, including x-ray and CT evidence of intracerebral bleeds due to traumatic injury; atrial fibrillation and resultant clot formation, and Heparin prophylaxis for acute coronary syndrome. Pierce and Ken contacted Archie MD Legal Graphics, of Miami Beach , Florida , which worked with them and their experts to create two 3-dimensional graphic "movies" using their virtual patient, "Archie." The movies helped explain the concepts using a mixture of animation, actual CT images from other patients, and labeling.

The trial began in a "standard" courtroom in Fairfax County , Virginia , whose greatest piece of useful technology was a projection screen that dropped from the ceiling. However, the final day of trial took place in Courtroom 5-E, the Court's most technologically advanced courtroom. That Courtroom has a universal interface for laptop computers, large plasma monitors located on the walls, and monitors located throughout the jury box, at counsel tables, and in the witness box. The monitor at the witness box employs a touch-screen so that witnesses may draw on images as they are being shown (e.g., John Madden drawing on a football replay screen). The technology was used with each of the three expert witnesses who testified for the defense on the last day - to display CT images and the two 3-D movies - as well as in closing arguments on behalf of the defense.

After slightly more than three hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Defendant. This case was significant because it marked the first time that Archie MD 3-D graphic movies were shown to a jury in Virginia , and the first time that the Courtroom 5-E media enhancements were used by actual litigants.