Category Archives: Trial Strategy


Spillane Trial Group has obtained a defense jury verdict for Dr. Li Sheng Kong and his medical corporation, LSK Enterprises, Inc., against cross-complaints for breach of fiduciary duty in connection with West Coast Vascular, a vascular surgery practice in the Ventura-Santa Barbara community.

Two of the WCV partners accused the senior partner of performing surgeries not indicated by the patient’s condition, a violation of the False Claims Act.  Dr. Kong initially voted to expel the accused partner from the practice.  Then, feeling he had been unduly pressured, and suspicious of partisan motivations for, and the medical methodology underlying, the accusation, he rescinded his vote to expel the partner.  read more

Spillane Trial Group Wins $12 Million Jury Verdict

Spillane Trial Group was asked to substitute into a case in Ventura County Superior Court for Plan B Management, Inc. against Diversified Panel Systems (“DPS”), six weeks before trial.  Plan B claimed breach of contract and fiduciary duties arising from an oral joint venture to sell cold storage panels to customers for use in indoor grow rooms.  DPS was represented by Quinn Emanuel.

We defeated two motions for issue and evidence sanctions and every motion in limine but one.  On Friday July 28, 2023 the jury rendered a verdict in favor of Plan B for $12 million.

The jury found that Plan B and DPS had entered into an oral agreement to become 50/50 partners in Canna Panels, LLC. read more

Spillane Trial Group Wins and Collects Seven Figure Judgment

In addition to appearing for clients at the outset of a case, we appear at the eleventh hour, when summary judgment is denied, the settlement conference blows up, and the case hurtles toward trial.

This was the case for American Computers & Engineers (“ACE”), a company that rents high end custom computer equipment for vendors of major multi-media productions.  ACE rented numerous computer units to Martin Brinkerhoff Associates, Inc. (“MBA”), which produces multi-media extravaganzas for the likes of Disney and Hyundai.

MBA’s former IT Manager stole, and sold, numerous units rented by ACE.  MBA ceased making rental payments, eventually concluded their IT Manager had indeed stolen the equipment, informed ACE of the loss and applied for insurance coverage.  read more

Evidence Outside the Box

A trial is conducted in a box. 

Literally and figuratively. 

The literal box is the windowless room in a government building in which the trial is conducted. 

The figurative box is drawn by the judge, who admonishes jurors that they are only to consider the evidence admitted inside the courtroom and shall not conduct research or consider information beyond the evidence admitted in the trial.

Yeah, right.

Okay, when these rules were framed, to research a party in the case, a juror would need to travel to a good library, search through index cards, talk to a research librarian and wander the shelves to pull information not received in the trial.  read more


Trying cases is a lost art in the business world.  Supposedly 95% of business cases settle prior to trial.  That may be so, because I consider 95% of my business law colleagues to be litigators, not trial lawyers: those who exclusively use pleadings, discovery and motions to posture a case for settlement and who have little to no trial experience. 

If a reasonable settlement can be achieved, I advise my clients to take it.  Trying cases is expensive and uncertain.  But if you’re not eager and able to try the case if necessary, how are you going to get the best settlements?  read more

Mini-Opening Statements

“Mini-opening statements,” or short opening statements to potential jurors before jury selection (“voir dire”), are a little understood but critical aspect of trial practice.

Parties are often required to submit joint materials before the pretrial conference including a short statement of the case.  See LASC LR 3.25(f)(1).  As a stipulated document, though, it will be sanitized to the point of revealing little about the case other than identification of the parties and claims.  On the day of jury selection, a “panel” or “venire” (“to come,” from the jury summons) of thirty to forty potential jurors will enter the courtroom and sit in the gallery.  read more

Jury De-Selection

Trial attorneys have at most four opportunities to speak to a jury: 1) a brief opening statement prior to jury selection (state only and on request); 2) jury selection, or “voir dire” (“to see one say”); 3) opening statement; and 4) closing argument.  The first two are before the jury is selected, and only in the second, jury selection, is one permitted to ask potential jurors questions and hear their answers.  This golden opportunity should not be squandered through ill preparation.

In federal civil practice the judge retains tight control over voir dire and need not allow attorneys to ask questions.  read more

You Just Lost The Trial, or Did You? Motions During and After Trial Can Reverse a Bad Result

I have tried numerous business cases with a fine record of success.  Trials are, however, an uncertain process, and if one tries enough cases, the most skilled trial lawyer will eventually lose a jury verdict.

When a trial lawyer hears an adverse verdict in court, should s/he walk away, shoulders slumped, counting for vindication on the power of an appellate brief due many months hence?  No.  A trial lawyer’s efforts to reverse an adverse jury verdict begins while the jury is still standing in the jury box.

The first question one must ask, seconds after hearing an adverse verdict, is whether the verdict is ambiguous or contradictory.  read more

Jury Pools and This Crazy Election

I try business cases for a living.  A trial is, boiled down to its essence, a chance to tell your client’s story, in a relatively short period of time, to a captive audience that for the most part has no legal training.  The story you tell is usually backed up by a limited number of exhibits and graphics that hopefully underscore your theme.  Except if you get a legal professional or two on the jury, the jury’s entire legal training consists of twenty minutes at the end where the judge reads jury instructions in a boring monotone.  I spent three years in law school and almost thirty years in practice figuring out how to apply facts to legal standards.  read more

The Trial Lawyer as Generalist

I belong to a business development network where members can post needs broadcasted on blast emails. A request for a litigation attorney often asks for a lawyer who specializes in the type of case in question – a “defamation lawyer” or a “policy holder litigator.”

At larger firms it is common for lawyers to cultivate specialization, so that the firm as a whole can market depth of knowledge in any given subject. Specialization certainly promotes clear marketing.

I, however, have avoided undue specialization, and have tried to follow in the steps of old school trial lawyers, available to appear in any matter contested in court. read more