After Donna Castillo’s testimony, I spent the next couple of days presenting testimony about how Benlate was used at the farm, especially on the two critical days in November 1989.
My plan from the start was to methodically prove to the jury that, first, Donna Castillo was sprayed that fateful day and, second, there was science to support the charge that Benlate caused Johnny’s birth defect. I was prepared and determined to conclusively prove both points.
We spent two full days of the trial putting into evidence invoices that supported the purchase of Benlate:
• we put into evidence the amount of Benlate that could have been on hand on the day Donna was sprayed;
• we provided the testimony of Eddie Sanders, the driver of the tractor, as well as weather records showing the weather and wind conditions on those November days; and
• we had the testimony of plant experts who stated when Benlate would have been used—in this case, Benlate would have been used prophylactically in the early stages of growth after planting.
In essence, we spent the entire two days proving the purchase and use of Benlate. Once I had submitted all this evidence, it felt like a good time to play my ace card.
The huge disconnect between the two defendants was painfully obvious, especially when I realized that DuPont had no clue what was about to happen next. Neither did the codefendant, Pine Island Farms, who was the prey that got caught in my trap when it answered my 65 requests for admissions.
As soon as I began to read Pine Island’s responses aloud to the jury, both defendants realized my strategy and knew the damage this would do to their case.
“Your Honor,” I asked, “would you instruct the jury on the meaning of requests for admissions and related responses?”
The judge obliged. “Ladies and gentleman,” the judge said, “a request for admission is a procedure whereby one party requests the other party to admit or deny certain statements of fact. An admission or denial by a party cannot be rebutted, opposed, or controverted in any way by the party that made such an admission or denial.”
“Thank you, Your Honor,” I said. “Ladies and gentleman, I am now going to read 64 requests for admissions that were served on Pine Island Farms prior to this trial.” While I had served 65 requests, my plan was to read only 64. I wasn’t required to read them all.
This process took about 30 minutes, but what a game-changer this half hour proved to be. I intentionally read each question and answer very slowly and deliberately so the jury could absorb each and every denial by Pine Island Farms.
“Ladies and gentleman,” I said, “the first request for admission is as follows: admit or deny that Pine Island Farms was using the chemical Trigard at the U-Pick fields on or about November 1 or November 2, 1989. Answer: denied.
“Ladies and gentleman,” I continued, “the second request for admission is as follows: admit or deny that Pine Island Farms was using the chemical Bravo at the U-Pick fields on or about November 1 or November 2, 1989. Answer: denied.”
I looked up at the jury every time, making eye contact with each member before proceeding with the next request for admission, all of which had been denied by Pine Island Farms. Somewhere around the ninth denial, I thought I heard pencils breaking in the courtroom as I continued to read. I briefly lifted my eyes from the papers in my hand to glance at the defendants’ counsel table, where I saw both sides in a state of panic.
They looked completely devastated by what was transpiring.
In my next post, I continue to recount what happened when I read these admissions and denials.
I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever been in negotiation with someone, and allowed the facts to help you win over a reluctant negotiator? Thank you for sharing.