Do the Due, Diligence: Trial Prep

trial

We recently encountered a challenging situation; In one matter: 20 witnesses to verify and serve, a week before the trial date. There were a myriad of reasons why the attorney was unprepared for trial (several incidents came to light during this hectic process) but below, we pass along several generic trial prep techniques:

1. Consult with your trial prep person well before trial.

Meeting with your trial prep firm allows the investigator to become aware of the case facts, and allots him/her the time to review the matter and then, formulate and execute an operations plan.  (There will always be last minute filings, service, subject locates… that have to be performed.  An experienced trial prep firm, however , has resources already in place for those unforeseen events.)

2. Basic Paperwork and Activity To Have Completed Pre-Trial

– Special Power of Attorney.  This should be obtained from the injured client from the outset.  (In this recent case, the client lived several states away and was not readily able to come up and sign authorizations.)

– HIPAA authorizations.  If there is a hint that the records may contain medical information,  a duly executed HIPAA authorization form must be attached to the subpoena request for testimony and or records.

– So Ordered Subpoenas.  Generally, among other criteria, if a city, state or federal agency is involved, a So Ordered Subpoena (signed by a judge) must be obtained at the trial court.

– Subject Locates – Don’t use the DIY  online searches that are readily available online.  The vast majority  of these sites yield information that, if correct, ages out at about 12 to 18 months old already.   Have your investigator conduct comprehensive locates, especially in cases that, for whatever reason (e.g., attorney substitution) have gone on for a while,

Tip:  When dealing with EMS documents, note the shield numbers.  If the shield number is 6,000 or above (e.g. Shield# 7206 or 6024) this is a private ambulance that has responded.  Do not subpoena the FDNY at MetroTech for the Ambulance Call Report.  They won’t have it.  In the section underneath “Comments” on the ACR, there is a field for Hosp #.  The number in that field reveals the hospital associated with the responding ambulance.   (There may be one of two numbers written into this field; a 3 digit number is the trauma center designation and the number in parens is the FDNY hospital code assignment.  Almost all EMS personnel use the 2 digit FDNY code. n parentheses)  See below for NY County Hospital Codes. (For other boroughs: shoot us an email, we’ll send you the links.)

Hospital Information

Hospital Name Disposition Code Hospital Name Disposition Code
Bellevue Hospital 712 (02) Beth Israel Medical Petrie Campus 713 (03)
Cabrini Medical 715 (63) Goldwater Memorial Hospital – Coler Site 714
Goldwater Memorial Hospital – Goldwater Site 720 Harlem Hospital 721 (07)
Hospital Joint Diseases Ortho. Inst. 735 Hospital For Special Surgery 723
North General Hospital 758 (09) Lenox Hill Hospital 728 (11)
Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital 730 (05) Memorial Hospital – Cancer & Allied Diseases 731 (08)
Metropolitan Hospital 732 (12) Mount Sinai Hospital 734 (13)
New York Eye & Ear Infirmary 736 New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell 737 (14)
New York University Downtown Hospital 941 (01) New York University Hospitals 739 (15)
New York Presbyterian Hospital
Columbia Presbyterian Division
742 (17) New York Presbyterian Hospital – Allen Pavillion 749 (16)
Rockefeller University Hospital 743 St. Clares Hospital & Health 746 (19)
St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hosp.
Roosevelt Hospital Division
759 (18) St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hosp.
St. Luke’s Division
745 (20)
St. Vincents Hospital & Medical of NY 748 (21) Veterans Administration Hospital 724 (10)
Beth Israel Medical Singer Division 718 (04)
  • (Number in Parenthesis indicates FDNY Hopital Number)
  • ‡ indicates trauma center designation

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Can’t Find Your Client? A Witness? or the Defect?? 5 Proactive Steps to Avoid These Problems

lost and found

Every attorney has his/her own intake survey (generally varying by incident type) and method of working a case.  Below are several situations that our investigators have experienced in the field, and recommendations based on these incidents.  We hope these observations serve a proactive purpose in case management as it applies to clients, witnesses and evidence.

1. Your client’s emergency contacts.

Situation: On numerous occasions we’ve had to locate a client who has moved without notifying his/her attorney.

Recommendation:  Obtain the complete contact information of at least 2 relatives and 2 friends NOT living with the client.  (Drilling deeper,  obtain the DOBs of the emergency contacts.  This may appear to be a rather aggressive suggestion but,  at least 2 of these 4 contacts should be 25 – 59 years old.  Generally, adults within this age range are employed and therefore, more easily trackable than those younger or retired.  Obtain an email address as these are often traceable. )

 

2.  The witnesses.

Situation: I’m sure you’ve all seen a PAR (Police Accident Report) w/a witness listed as “Johnny, 917-555-1234”. (or same, similarly incomplete police report).   No address, no surname and a cell phone that may or may not be active in 2 weeks, let alone 2 years.

Recommendation(s):  1. Call “Johnny” immediately.  Obviously,  the first objective is to determine his knowledge of events regarding your client’s matter.  2. Obtain his contact information and an identifier.  (Again we suggest DOB.  Many people are reluctant to release their SSN.)  3. Obtain an emergency contact for him.   4.  Check the contact info every 6  months until the case achieves resolution.

 

3. Professional photographs of the accident scene, especially if citing defect or disrepair. 

Situation:   Several years ago, we had an exterior premises  trip and fall situation wherein we were called to investigate the scene approximately 4 months post-incident.  The injured person made several natural and unintentional mistakes: 1. Not realizing the extent of his injuries, he did not call 911.  There were no on-site witnesses and no responder witnesses, and  2. When he returned a week or so later, after receiving medical attention, he’d taken photos of the accident scene but the shots contained shadows running across the defect rendering it difficult to determine the exact nature and severity of the  defect.   He was to go back and re-shoot the scene but did not.  4 months later, no defect, no repair record.  The building owner, of course <eye roll>, knew nothing.  Good luck with an area canvass among usually non-cooperative neighbors.

Recommendation: Send out a professional to photograph the accident scene ASAP.  Don’t expect the client to return and accurately record the scene.  Bear in mind, however, that the defect may have permanently “disappeared” and there may not always be a repair record.

From our good friend, http://www.stus.com:

 car accident

4.  If it seems weird; it probably is.  Check all possible contributory factors.

Situation:  Claimant fell UP the stairs.  She wasn’t carrying bags, wore flat shoes; no drugs or alcohol were involved.  No defects, liquids or debris on the ground.

Recommendation: Measure everything.  After taking detailed step and rail measurements, we realized that a) the steps were unequally sized – from the height between them to the protruding lip of each step (which was excessive at the point where she was caused to trip) and b) the rail would have been out of reach from her position regardless, with no secondary wall rail in place.   Rarely do people slip, trip or fall for no reason (unless there is an underlying medical condition).

 

5. Always check to see if drugs and alcohol were involved. (Defense)

Situation:  Building maintenance crew member claims to have fallen off of a defective ladder.  The ACR showed extremely high bp readings; 3 taken at 15 minute intervals by responding EMS – well above the readings that would be expected even in a  such a stressful situation.

Recommendation: Check the medical history.  The individual was on Lipitor and had not taken his medication as prescribed for several days preceding his fall.  (He’d also commented to several co-workers earlier on the day of incident that he was feeling “dizzy”.)  There was absolutely nothing wrong with the ladder, the area surrounding it, nor was he working at a height requiring specialized safety equipment.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.