In the introduction to his book, Mark Mandell writes that Case Framing is a “working model for trying a case from beginning to end.” How many times have trial lawyers picked up a book that made similar pronouncements, only to find that it was a collection of the author’s personal anecdotes—offering no real help to the average trial lawyer?
This book, however, delivers as promised. In part one, Mandell describes case frames in plain language and explains how they can affect the outcome of your case. A case frame is the most important principle at stake in your case, a principle that should apply to nearly everyone in society—including the jurors. Mandell illustrates the concept of a case frame through concrete examples that can be used in a wide variety of personal injury cases.
For example, in a nursing home case, the case frame could be “do your job”—if the nursing home had done its job, then the resident would not have been injured. Or the case frame could be “betrayal”—the nursing home betrayed the resident’s and her family’s trust to protect the resident from neglect or abuse. As I read through the examples, I found myself writing some of my clients’ names next to particular case frames, knowing the frames could be useful in their cases.
An important part of developing the case frame is figuring out what Mandell calls the “I-just-can’t-get-over” issues. These are the issues that will figure into a jury’s verdict because they are so compelling, the jurors cannot get over them. In the nursing home case example, an I-just-can’t-get-over issue might be that the nursing home hired an employee without doing a thorough background check, or that it allowed an employee to continue working there after being disciplined by the nursing board for neglecting a patient.
Like other trial tactics teachers, Mandell tells us that those issues generally focus on the defendant’s conduct. The book includes a step-by-step process to find the overall case frame and the I-just-can’t-get-over issues. Then, it explains how to use case frames through all stages of a case, including deposition and mediation—even in cases of admitted liability.
In part two, Mandell illustrates how case framing works, using a real-life example with a plaintiff who was treated for cancer. As Mandell outlined the case background, I made notes in the margins about what case frame I thought applied, using the lessons I learned from part one.
When the case frame was revealed, I looked back at my notes and found that I had correctly identified it. The book is so well written that you can put it to use before you even finish reading it. That, combined with my notes identifying case frames and I-just-can’t-get-over issues in several of my pending cases, has made this book one of the most practical and beneficial that I have read in my 35 years as a lawyer.
Tony Laizure is the sole owner of Laizure Law in Tulsa, Okla. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.