The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently addressed allegedly improper comments by counsel during jury argument. [Michael D Williams versus C & E Boat Rentals, LLC. (Fifth Circuit docket number 11 – 30904).] The Court reiterated several important principles. If an objection is made during trial, the wide discretion allowed the trial judge is reviewable on an abuse of discretion standard. If the objection is not made until appeal, the standard of review is plain error. It is important that the statements complained of have some basis in fact in the case (“Whether the closing argument statements at issue were based on evidence in the record is important to our inquiry.”) The common limiting instruction advising that statements by the lawyers are not evidence and that the jury must rely on its own interpretation of the evidence may cure statements where the court does not “applaud . . . counsel’s word choice”, but still finds some basis in the evidence for the statement.
Plauché, Smith & Nieset is engaged in the insurance defense practice, concentrating on insurance defense litigation and business litigation in Calcasieu Parish, Cameron Parish, Jefferson Davis Parish, Allen Parish, and Beauregard Parish. Plauché, Smith & Nieset also engages in the insurance defense practice throughout the state of Louisiana.