How Far Is Too Far in Summation?

Every jurisdiction has its own set of rules as to how far an attorney can go in a personal injury case in arguing the pain and suffering value of the injuries. New York, for example, allows an attorney to suggest specific numbers to a jury. Pennsylvania, in contrast, does not.

In New Jersey, court rule R. 1:7-1 specifically prohibits counsel from arguing a specific pain and suffering value. But, as you might expect, attorneys, particularly plaintiff’s attorneys, often try to take liberties with the rule. So it is that the case of Riski v. Thompson Muller, is headed to the New Jersey Supreme Court — http://www.law.com/jsp/nj/PubArticleNJ.jsp?id=1202474023552&slreturn=1&hbxlogin=1.

In Riski, plaintiff’s counsel told the jury that they would be “ignoring the law if they had an issue with a million dollar case.” After this argument, a $1,700,000 verdict was awarded — a verdict that was set aside by the trial court — and an appeal resulted. The Supreme Court will now decide whether the arguments violated R. 1:7-1 and otherwise went beyond the bounds of proper advocacy. We will keep you posted as to what happens next!

If you would like more information about this post, please contact Bob Cosgrove at rcosgrove@wcmlaw.com.