Months after COVID-19 brought everyday life to a halt, jury trials are back in Maryland. Our firm had the distinction of trying (and winning!) one of the first medical malpractice jury trials — during the pandemic — in the state. Partners John Sly and Tony Breschi recently finished the two-week trial in Baltimore County, before Judge Mickey Norman. Extraordinary efforts were made to keep everyone safe. They shared with us the below “insider tips”:
- Process and Procedure: Jury selection was conducted in the jury assembly room. General questions were conducted first in the main area, followed by individual voir dire in a different room based on answers to the general questions. After selection, jurors were seated in the courtroom’s jury box, which was extended into the well of the courtroom. Jurors were seated in three rows, with each row separated by plexiglass and each chair separated by 6 feet;
- Preparation: Preparation ahead of trial is more important than ever. We made advance visits to the courtroom to check the layout, acoustics and lighting issues to decide how to position ourselves and equipment. This helped our Audio-Visual expert quite a bit;
- Presentation: AV is key. With an inability to get close, we needed clear visuals and sound. Also, we could not publish anything physically to the jury, so we had to display exhibits large enough for all to see;
- Communication: All counsel, including the Judge, used the wireless device that interpreters use for bench conferences. We remained at the counsel table and spoke into the microphones. We all thought it worked very well;
- More Communication: Good communication between counsel was very important. We had two seats up front: for the lawyer and the client. The second lawyer was socially distanced, which meant we had to have a clear idea of what each was doing;
- Even More Communication: Volume, volume, volume. We had to be ready to “yell.” With all the plexiglass in the courtroom and masks on the entire time, we had to speak loudly. Witnesses were constantly reminded to “speak up;” and
- Face-coverings: Lastly, we had to find the most comfortable mask we could for both speaking and getting through the day. Plastic face masks turned out to be not-so-great due to fogging, “echo” effect and discomfort.
Bottom Line: We are ready and able to try your cases in the COVID world. If you have any questions about COVID trials, please contact us. We’re here to help.