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The debut trial in Philadelphia’s City Hall’s new high-tech courtroom last week ended after just one day in a $1.1 million settlement, but the plaintiffs’ lawyers said the real verdict came down in favor of the new courtroom, and that their use of state-of-the-art visual aids may have led to the speedy settlement. But a trio of defense lawyers also showed that a low-tech or no-tech approach may just be the best response when an opponent dazzles a jury with visuals. And the jury left the lawyers with one strong word of caution: When it comes to technology, if it might not work, don’t even try it. The case, Galligan v. City of Philadelphia, was a personal injury suit brought by two West Point cadets who were injured when a railing at Vet Stadium collapsed during the 1998 Army-Navy game. Plaintiff Kevin Galligan broke his neck in the fall and, although he survived without any paralysis, he claimed that his physical injuries ultimately forced him to abandon his dreams of following in his father’s footsteps with a military career. Galligan also claimed he suffered a brain injury that has hampered his attempts to pursue a career on Wall Street. Plaintiffs’ attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi of Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky said he decided to request the use of the high-tech courtroom because he had complex engineering issues to explain to the jury about the structure and corrosion of the railing that allegedly led to its collapse, and that he wanted jurors to be able to visualize what he was talking about from the very beginning. “Studies show that you remember 40 percent of what you hear, 50 percent of what you see, and 80 percent of what you both see and hear,” Mongeluzzi said. In his opening speech, Mongeluzzi used the courtroom’s technology to its fullest with a presentation that combined PowerPoint drawings created by his engineering expert witnesses, photographs, documents and snippets from videotape depositions — all displayed on a large plasma screen above the witness stand. Each image also appeared on six monitors in the jury box — one for every two jurors — as well as flat-screen monitors on all four counsel tables and the judge’s bench. He closed his speech with the video of the accident itself, captured on tape by a CBS-TV cameraman, that showed the dramatic few moments in which a group of excited cadets were cheering for Army and then suddenly plunged 12 feet when the railing gave way. Mongeluzzi’s presentation was obviously well rehearsed. Whenever he wanted a new image to appear, he simply nodded to his technician, Ray McLeod of Doar Inc., who would pop it up with a click or two on a laptop. “I think the technology was tremendously helpful,” Mongeluzzi said. “Especially when we were using documents, it was helpful to be able to bring that up instantaneously and highlight a single sentence or paragraph that we wanted the jury to read and focus on.” Lawyers always want feedback on how they’re doing during a presentation, Mongeluzzi said, and the high-tech courtroom enhanced that because “the jurors were very observant, and I could see them nodding at times.” But defense attorney Eugene J. Maginnis Jr. of Dugan Brinkman Maginnis & Pace, who represented the manufacturer of the railing system, the Hussey Seating Co., opted for a decidedly low-tech approach in his opening statement. Maginnis showed the jury just one photograph that showed a large group of cadets leaning on the railing at the very moment that it broke, including one cadet who was standing atop the railing. “That railing was not designed for that kind of load,” Maginnis said. Taking a dig at the plaintiffs’ high-tech presentation, Maginnis urged the jury not to be swayed by the “smoke-and-mirrors” of an impressive animation that purported to show that the railing collapsed due to corrosion. “The only thing that matters in this case is the video [of the accident] and that picture right there,” Maginnis said, pointing to the image of the cadets piling on and leaning over the railing. The city’s lawyer, Frederick M. Walton Jr. of Harvey Pennington Cabot Griffith & Renneisen, also used the courtroom’s technology sparingly, with just a few documents and photographs displayed on the monitors through a document camera, a device similar to an overhead projector. But Walton ultimately gave up on using the visuals when he struggled with the camera’s sizing mechanism and was unable to get the entire image that he wanted to appear. “This is a high-tech courtroom, but I’m a low-tech guy,” Walton joked. And attorney Andrew J. Connolly of Post & Schell, who represented Contemporary Services Corp., the company that was responsible for crowd management on the day of the game, opted for a no-tech approach in which the only visuals shown to the jury during his opening speech were on foam board posters. Connolly’s posters seemed antiquated in comparison to Mongeluzzi’s presentation, especially because the print was not large enough for jurors to see at a distance. Without his image displayed on the jurors’ screens, Connolly was forced to slowly walk along the jury box so that each of jurors could get a glimpse. Judge Sandra Mazer Moss, who presided over the trial, said she was slightly nervous before it began, but that “I think it went beautifully.” After the settlement was announced, Mazer Moss said, she decided to allow the lawyers to question the jurors. The comments from the jurors, she said, showed that the use of technology was effective. As she watched during the trial, Mazer Moss said, the jury appeared to be “fascinated.” “Nobody was nodding off. Nobody got bored,” Mazer Moss said. Mongeluzzi’s co-counsel, David Kwaas, said the jurors commented that they especially liked the way the lawyers had displayed documents, showing first an entire page and then highlighting and enlarging a section. The jurors’ comments also showed that they had digested and understood the information, Kwaas said. “I think you get an incredible amount of information retention when you display documents this way,” Kwaas said. “I’m very confident that with foam boards, you get much less retention.” Deputy Court Administrator Charles A. Mapp Sr. said the debut trial of the high-tech courtroom was an unqualified success. Complex trials are run more efficiently, Mapp said, when lawyers are able instantaneously to display documents and images to jurors, the judge and opposing counsel with a single click on a computer. In Galligan v. City of Philadelphia, Mapp said, the technology seems to have helped the lawyers in reaching a settlement after just one day of trial, before any witnesses had taken the stand. Mapp said Courtroom 625 is also outfitted with some technology that was not used in the first trial, including the mechanics necessary for “real-time” court reporting in which a transcript of the proceedings is displayed on the judge’s and lawyers’ monitors just moments after words are uttered. The judge also has a “kill switch,” Mapp said, that allows her to remove an image from the screens visible to the jurors if any objection is raised. And witnesses from out of town can appear live in the courtroom, Mapp said, through the use of video-conferencing equipment.

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