January 28, 2021
No one questions that 20-year-old Jocelyne Plascencia died an awful death. As she was driving on a four-lane highway, a car made an illegal U-Turn in front of her, she swerved to avoid colliding with that vehicle, and crashed into a semi-trailer, which was illegally parked on the south side of the highway. She was airlifted from the scene of the carnage, and died a month later.
Her father brought suit against the driver of the vehicle and, after a jury trial, the jury awarded the Estate $30 million in damages.
Last week, a California appeals court vacated the verdict.
One of the reasons for the decision was Jocelyne’s attorney’s violation of the so-called “Golden Rule.” The Golden Rule essentially prohibits plaintiff’s attorneys from asking jurors to put themselves in the plaintiff’s shoes (and, in this case, during closing argument, the attorney asked the jurors to “[j]ust imagine that is your daughter,” and to image “that constant love and connection between you and your daughter,” and that “your daughter is taken away.”) The Golden Rule is designed to ensure that jurors base their verdict on the facts of the case and not sympathy.
“The $30 million verdict is so large,” the court wrote, “that it shocks the conscience and suggests passion or prejudice on the part of the jury.” The case was returned to the trial court for another trial solely on the issue of damages.
One, the attorney should have known better. Two, he probably didn’t need to violate the Golden Rule to get full and fair compensation for Jocelyne’s family.