When Michael Louis Kelly takes on a case, he immediately starts thinking of how he might turn the case into a successful screenplay. Not because he wants to sell the movie rights, but because he feels that it is the most effective way to present a case to a jury. "Jurors want to resolve the conflict, they want the drama" says Kelly, "Determine what your most powerful or convincing fact is, and set up your case to build to its disclosure."
In the case of Doyle Baker v. PrivatAir, Inc, Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC322198, Kelly obtained a $63.9 million verdict in an age discrimination/defamation case by doing just that. He represented the pilot who was hired by the defendant to captain Bruce Willis and Demi Moore's private jet, then fired by the company for alleged safety infractions. Kelly told an at-first skeptical jury that the other members of the flight crew conspired to get his client, a frugal crew boss, fired so they could live a more luxurious lifestyle while on the road with their wealthy employers. What he did not show them until near the end of his case, was that this wild conspiracy story was meticulously documented in explicit detail in emails between the other crew members.
In another recent product defect case in which he obtained a $4.3 million settlement seconds before beginning opening statement, Kelly's client had consumed alcohol before attempting to operate the alleged defective vehicle. During voir dire Kelly let the opposition bring up the alcohol issue again and again, saying little on it himself. His plan was to wait until the defense had made it a key issue in the case, then bring in the fact that the blood alcohol analysis done immediately after the accident showed a .01 level, equivalent to only about 1 beer. "Letting an issue like this become an impediment to your success, then knocking it down, turns your guy into the 'unlikely hero,' rather than just someone guy who drank a beer," says Kelly.
In the insurance bad faith case of Indochina International v. Stratford Insurance Company, et. al., Riverside Superior Court Case No. INC003243, Kelly obtained a ground breaking $2.6 million verdict in a case where the insurer had provided the insured a defense, then filed a declaratory relief action against the insured, a perfectly acceptable course of conduct under California law. Kelly took the novel approach of alleging that the insurer had used a legal approach, in bad faith, to pressure its financially vulnerable insured, and third party claimants, into a low ball settlement of large claims. Kelly says he brought the jury to his side by letting the insurance company executives wax on about their high standards and good intent before unveiling a single "post it" from their file that indicated they had done just what he claimed.
"A jury starts out thinking that both sides are telling less than the truth. To tip the scale, you need to have a twist in the plot that jolts the jury to your side. If the jury starts out with your whole story in front of them, you have nowhere to go with them but down."