Dan Costello will help to kick off the first full day of the 2020 Annual Conference with a series of short “Ted-like” talks addressing some of the game-changing factors that will affect our industry for years to come. Then this high-energy panel will sit down for an interactive discussion and Q&A from the audience. The CLM Annual Conference is one of the largest industry conferences in the claims and litigation management industry.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Costello Legal is expanding by opening a new office in Indiana. The new full-service office is located at 13295 Illinois St., Suite 314 in Carmel, just north of Indianapolis. Dan Costello remarked, “Over the last 5 years we have handled a significant number of cases in Northwest Indiana, and throughout Indiana with great results. By opening a new office and utilizing technology and shared metrics we can expand our reach while continuing to deliver the same great results our clients have come to expect from us.” The firm currently has three licensed Indiana attorneys with Dan Costello also acting as counsel pro hac vice on large matters.
Senior Attorney Brian Brenn has been hired to work in Costello Legal’s Indianapolis office, along with the team of attorneys and staff. Brian brings over 8 years of experience to the firm from working on the Plaintiff’s side in Indiana. Brian says, “I’m very excited to be joining the Costello Legal Team. I think their focus on efficiency and client-driven metrics really sets them apart and I think we’ll be a great fit. I’m ready to hit the ground running!”
See address and driving directions in our Contact Us page.
Dan Costello has been invited to join the prestigious Claims and Litigation Management Alliance Advisory Board. Dan is one of only two attorneys from across the United States who has been chosen to provide leadership to the CLM and its mission. He joins an advisory board stacked with industry leaders in the claims and risk management area from across the United States and Canada. Daniel Costello has been a member for the past 10 years contributing to the organization, but the first time joins the leadership group of CLM.
Dan Costello, Founder of Daniel P. Costello & Associates, PC, is currently recognized as a national expert in litigation management, complex case litigation, and trial practice. In 2014 he was one of four finalist for the Claim and Litigation Management(CLM) Outside Counsel of the Year, selected from nearly 45,000 members. In 2019 he was named as a member of the CLM Advisory board, and Co-Chair of the Litigation Management Symposium (LMS), and a chancellor of the Litigation Management Institute (LMI)
He also acts as a national complex litigation attorney, billing fees expert, and expert in litigation of construction defect disputes. He has recently been retained as an expert witness in multiple party litigation in California, Texas, Florida, and Arizona, among other states.
CLM’s Advisory Board members are comprised of experienced executives who periodically advise on issues related to the CLM’s mission. For a full list of board members refer here: CLM Advisory Board Members:
The CLM is a member of The Institutes, is dedicated to meeting the professional development need of the claims and litigation management industries. Founded in 2007, the CLM membership benefits our networking events, continuing education programs, and a wide variety of industry resources. The group now has over 45,000 members globally. More on the CLM can be found at: https://www.theclm.org/Index
Jessica just won her third consecutive jury trial for 2019! In her most recent victory, Jessica successfully defended an inflatable amusement park after a 34 year old man fractured his ankle while going down an inflatable slide. The plaintiff retained an amusement device expert from Florida, who opined that the plaintiff got his foot caught in a loose slide cover and that the defendant failed to properly monitor the slide.
Plaintiff underwent surgery, and asked for over $450,000 prior to trial. However, Jessica took the case to trial and made the case that the inflatable slide cover was not defective and that the defendant was not negligent in any way. After hearing from seven witnesses over the course of a four day trial, the jury agreed with Jessica and returned a full defense verdict.
Dan Costello will serve as a speaker, host, and co-chair of the 2019 Litigation Management Symposium hosted by CLM. The 1st ever symposium brings together thought leaders from both national legal purchasers and legal service providers to discuss the current and future models of both, as well as discussing the evolutionary forces that will affect their working relationships.
The invitation only event will feature speakers and participants from across the country and from many innovators in this space. Costello was chosen for the role as one of the top thought leaders in the Country in regards to legal service providers and their future role on innovation, technology and service. More information is available at: https://www.theclm.org/Event/ShowEventDescription/11868
Costello Legal has hired two experienced attorneys to the practice; Jared Reynolds, and Lucas Park. Each brings a valuable and unique perspective to our practice.
Founder and Managing Partner Dan Costello extolled their value to the firm in recent comments, “We are really excited to have both Jared and Lucas come aboard, they bring unique methods, thought, and leadership qualities that are hard to find.” Dan said of Jared: “Jared comes to us after working on the plaintiff’s side, often for those who suffered catastrophic injuries. His opponents on the defense side held him in the highest regard, and quite frankly they told us he was a standout young attorney.
His desire to act as a first chair attorney on the defense side persuaded him to make the jump, and we are really excited to give him that opportunity immediately.” Jared had previously worked at one of the premiere plaintiff’s firms in Illinois handling nursing home, medical malpractice, and general negligence cases where he helped his clients recover over $12 million in settlements and awards. He also worked at the Cook County public defenders office where he had the opportunity to second chair two felony jury trials.
The firm is lucky enough to have a second stand-out attorney to join this month as well. Dan Costello gushed about the new addition: “I’m thrilled to have Lucas come over to the firm from the Illinois Attorney General’s office after gaining significant experience with the Land of Lincoln Legal Aid and Winnebago State’s attorney’s office. His experience as a veteran of the United States Army including deployment twice to Afghanistan gives him life experience that is invaluable. I have no doubt that his leadership skills and service focus from his military experience will transition very well to our team approach at the firm. He will be assisting on some of the largest and most complex cases in the office.” After serving in the military, Lucas attended the Illinois Institute of Technology and obtained his bachelor’s degree in industrial technology, which will be an invaluable addition to the firm on complex products and construction litigation.
We can’t wait for both Jared and Lucas to meet our clients, and provide them with the top quality legal service that they have grown accustomed to from our firm.
A link to their bios can be found here for Jared Reynolds and Lucas Park
A case involving a slip and fall on a basketball court at a health club, Plaintiff alleged that the design of the basketball court was defective due to the placement of a metal strip placed throughout the edge of the entire court.
Associate Shipra Mehta was tasked with defending the health club, and pushed to end the case before entering discovery. She filed a motion to dismiss which utilized the liability waivers signed by the Plaintiff. Shipra argued that the plaintiff was barred from bringing this lawsuit due to the exculpatory language that he voluntarily agreed to. As the mechanism of the injury was contemplated by the exculpatory language, Plaintiff had waived his rights to maintain this lawsuit. After briefing and oral hearing, the Court agreed and dismissed the case with prejudice, saving the client both settlement and defense fees due to a quick resolution.
The case had all of the trappings of a runaway jury. A corporate defendant, a dead doctor, a grieving family, and a venue where verdicts had hit for up to $148 million, with several clocking in between $30-40 million in just the surrounding months. Add to that the fact that the plaintiff’s attorneys were some of the most feared in the country, and this one seemed like a case destined to settle. So why did the verdict come back at the defendant’s number? More importantly, was this just a one-off case, or an example of effective defense strategies continuing to move us toward a positive trend line?
In June 2018, I wrote the first installment of this three-part series on the trend of eye-popping, runaway jury verdicts. If you haven’t yet read that article, it’s a must – you can find it here. That first article provides both perceptions and empirical data to address the questions, “What is the top end for verdicts?” and, “Can you still take large cases to verdict in troubled venues like Cook County?”
In this second article, I wanted to provide strategies for handling big cases, including in problematic venues across the country, such as Cook County. As a case study in what works, I will also outline the strategies employed in the death case mentioned above that went to verdict in 2018.
I have tried or handled large catastrophic injury and death cases in three of the top five judicial hell holes in the United States. Magna Jury Consultant Rachel York Colangelo, Ph.D. and her colleagues have worked on cases in every large venue, and many of the smaller yet still troubling venues, in the United States, and on every kind of catastrophic injury/death case you can imagine. Together, here is what we know:
Good defense teams regularly (early and often) test their theories of the case through focus groups or mock trials in order to develop a compelling counter narrative with focused themes. As noted in my prior article, plaintiff attorneys are constantly testing themes that drive up case values. The defense’s need to effectively respond, rebut, and reframe the plaintiff’s themes, as well as the rising tide of Millennial jurors requires a similar vetting and testing of our cases.
Right now there are 75 million Millennials and 60 million Generation “Z”s (those born between 1980 and 1998) in the United States. Amazingly these individuals make up 41% of the current US population. These 18- to 30-somethings are the fastest growing segment of today’s workforce, and in cities, they are the largest and fastest growing percentage of the population. As cities continue to draw and house Millennials and Gen Z, this means that all juries will soon be comprised of a majority of Mllennials and Gen Z in nearly every large venue.
Like it or not, Millennials are leaders in the jury room, despite the presence of other jurors with many more years of life/work experience that may be relevant to deciding the case. Millennial jurors jump to the front of the line and are the first to volunteer to serve as foreperson as well as the first to offer their opinions. This consideration requires you to:
Test your case with jury research (focus groups and mock trials, either online or in-person). The earlier, the better – test your case during discovery; don’t wait until the eve of trial.
Develop themes jurors, particularly Millennials and Gen Z, require in a compelling narrative, including telling them why finding for the defense is the “right thing to do” in this case.
Develop a theme of personal responsibility that benefits the defense, not just as applied to this case, but remind jurors how we expect everyone to act in our society.
Let the jurors solve the puzzle on their own. Jurors, especially Millennials, want to feel as if they have solved the mystery of the case on their own rather than being told exactly how to get there. Thus, the defense’s job is to drop the crumbs and show jurors the path (the shorter and straighter the path the better), but allow them to reach the finish line “on their own.”
Find the right words to speak to your jury. Sometimes using exact wording is key to hitting the sweet spot with juries. Specific words and phrases can resonate more or less with different types of jurors. Generation differences make it nearly impossible to find the right words without testing the case with mock jurors.
Now, with these tips in mind, let’s return to the September, 2018 verdict my firm got in the aforementioned doctor death case. The plaintiffs in that case, the doctor’s heirs, asked the jury for $14.4 million in damages. The jury returned a verdict of $1.3 million, which was close to the figure suggested by the defense. This was a defense win for sure, and the key to that success was conducting a pre-trial online focus group via JuryConfirm.com with Dr. Colangelo and her colleagues at Magna Legal Services. Through the feedback garnered during that focus group, we were able to develop a powerful defense theme using the exact wording of “knowledge and control” to focus the jury on why the plaintiff had some personal responsibility for her own death. This theme was born out of the comments made by Millennial mock jurors during the online focus group, and then resonated with Millennials on the actual trial jury.
Another critical part of the equation for Millennials in particular, but frankly all jurors in the age of the ever-shortening attention span, is the use of graphics and technology in the Courtroom. Effectively using graphics and technology for trial presentation is the final piece of the puzzle for combatting runaway jury verdicts, and is the subject of the third installment of this three-article series.
Congratulations to Jessica on her two jury trial wins and a great start for 2019!
Day Care Defense
Jessica successfully defended both a day care and school district against a negligence claim brought by the family of a 6 year-old minor plaintiff who fell off monkey bars on a playground and fractured her arm. Plaintiffs alleged the injuries sustained required surgery and further claimed she had a permanent flexion contracture deformity. The plaintiff initially sued both the school district who owned the playground and the day care responsible for supervising the minor plaintiff on the playground, but voluntarily dismissed the school district with prejudice on the eve of trial. Plaintiff asked for more than $400,000, but Jessica made the case that the defendants were not negligent in any aspect of their supervision. After a 4-day trial, the jury found no negligence and returned a full defense verdict.
Premises Liability Case Involving “Eggshell Plaintiff”
A 27 year old plaintiff filed a premises liability claim against a fraternal organization arising out of injuries the plaintiff allegedly sustained after falling down stairs on the defendant’s premises and suffering an ankle fracture. Plaintiff alleged that a loose handrail caused her to fall. Plaintiff underwent an initial surgery and a subsequent hardware removal surgery. She further claimed that she suffered blood clots, including a pulmonary embolism, as a result of the occurrence and was required to be on blood thinners for the rest of her life.
Jessica Biagi vigorously defended the fraternal organization over the course of a 6-day trial, where over 12 witnesses were presented including the surgeon, three hematologists, and the physical therapist. Plaintiff presented three post-occurrence witnesses who testified that the handrail moved one to three inches in each direction. Additionally, Plaintiff called an architect who opined the handrail was unsafe and violated applicable building codes as well as a hematology expert who opined that the blood clots and need for lifelong medication was related to the occurrence. Plaintiff asked for a verdict in the amount of $1,520,031.12. However, Jessica made the case that the handrail did was not the cause of Plaintiff’s fall, and within only one hour of deliberation, the jury agreed and returned a full defense verdict.