Sonia Chopra of Chopra Koonan is proud to have been part of the plaintiff's trial team on the landmark case of Johnson v. Monsanto. On August 10, 2018 a San Francisco jury returned a unanimous verdict finding that Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer caused Mr. Johnson’s terminal cancer. The jury awarded $39.2 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages against Monsanto for failing to warn consumers that Roundup causes cancer. This case represents the first of thousands of pending cases involving Roundup.
Chopra Koonan Litigation Consulting is focused on providing our clients with valuable real world advice on how to succeed in all aspects of litigation. Sonia Chopra and Karen Jo Koonan combine our 40 plus years of litigation consulting experience with current social science theory to develop winning case strategies, effective witness preparation techniques, valuable pre-trial research, and game changing jury selection methods.
Story telling is the oldest form of human expression. People have always used stories to make sense of the world around them. Decision making by fact finders in litigation is no exception. Our strength, having consulted on thousands of trials, is our ability to help attorneys and litigants to understand and communicate the story of the case in a way that will resonate with the decision maker--be it a jury, judge or arbitrator. We review essential case documents and testimony, and work with you to develop case themes and a story sequence that maximizes the persuasiveness of your message to the broadest audience possible. Our approach involves shifting our clients’ mindset away from a narrow focus on the legal issues and minute details. We take the perspective of the decision maker, asking the questions they will ask, identifying strengths and addressing pitfalls. The details of the facts and the legal elements of the claims have more power when they are understood within the framework of a story that appeals to the fact finder’s world view and common sense.
Presenting your case to a group of representative, venue specific citizens and listening in as they discuss the issues or deliberate to a verdict is the most powerful tool you can use to test your case before litigation commences. Pretrial research allows you to gauge layperson’s reaction to case themes, key witnesses, worrisome facts, damage requests, notable parties, and controversial case issues. You will learn about the comprehensibility of the jury instructions and verdict form, determine which causes of action are the strongest, identify areas of confusion that experts need to address, and gain information pertinent to settlement decisions.
Community specific research is key; the way fact finders in one jurisdiction decide the case is often vastly different than the way the same case may be perceived in a different location. We have found that case themes and analogies that come from the mouths of mock jurors drawn from your trial venue resonate the most strongly with jurors at trial. Pretrial research designs are available in a variety of formats, ranging from a facilitated discussion group of key issues to a detailed, multi-day mini trial. We will work with you in developing a research approach that fit the needs of the case and the resources available to the litigation team.
With the wrong jury, your case can be over before it begins. Effective jury selection is both an art and a science, and we draw on both experience and social science research in our practice. We work with you to develop profiles of favorable and dangerous jurors, then craft voir dire questions, jury questionnaires, or judicial voir dire that will identify problematic potential jurors without revealing to the other side those favorable to your case. Time permitting, we will assist in conducting social media research of potential jurors in the pool. During jury selection, we can sit with you at counsel table, taking detailed notes, and providing follow up questions based on juror responses. Our assistance gives you the information you need to argue challenges for cause and most effectively exercise your peremptory challenges. We have decades of experience assisting our clients in preparing for and conducting jury selection in thousands of trials, in both state and federal court.
The testimony of key witnesses is essential to convincing a jury or judge that the story of your case is the one that should prevail. Preparing witnesses begins with helping them to understand their role in the process and in the trial narrative. We work with witnesses to improve their communication style by increasing their persuasiveness, confidence, and effectiveness. Our unique approach helps the witness—be it a party, percipient witness or expert—adopt a state of mind that keeps the decision makers in the forefront as opposed to being focused on “doing battle” with the opposing side. Based on feedback from post-trial interviews, mock trial research, and years of trial observation, we provide a set of tools that helps the witness to avoid the most common testimonial mistakes. Our philosophy is that every witness can be a better witness with the proper preparation, feedback, and practice. We are available to prepare both expert and lay witnesses for depositions, hearings, and trials.
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