The Bible at Trial in Personal Injury Cases

Religion and Scripture is the subject of one of the most compelling chapters in Reptile, a book offering a guide for plaintiffs’ lawyers on trying personal injury cases. The lessons offered in the book have made a meteoric rise from novel theories to conventional wisdom by most experienced personal injury lawyers. You don’t have to blindly accept every premise in the book but if you are handling product liability, accident, malpractice or any other kind of tort cases – even if you are a defense lawyer – you need to buy this book.shutterstock_173726786

The premise is simple: most of us believe in God and view the world from the lens of faith. This is obviously true for people who wear their religion on their sleeve. (Not saying that is a bad thing but you know what I mean.) But the rules of Scripture, according to the Reptile authors, command authority as the “ultimate rules” for not only the faithful but the agnostic and even atheists. The Bible is loaded with stories and parables that apply to every situation where justice is being sought. Here are a few of the plaintiffs’ theme direct quote suggestions:

  • “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd.” (Exodus 23:2)
  • “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.” (Exodus 23:6)
  • “Truthful lips endure forever but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” (Proverbs 12:19)

The first question is whether or not this is admissible and whether you are going to offend the sensibilities of the court. I don’t think this is an impediment. Argument is argument and Scripture is history like any other history and can be used to make an argument. I see no difference in quoting the Bible than I do in making an American Revolution or Civil War reference, in closing.  Of course, whether a judge listens to that logic or just knee jerks “You can’t bring religion into this!” is another matter.

The next and more difficult question is whether it is something you should do. Personally, I’ll most likely leave this arrow in my quiver, at least as a regular part of my arsenal. Why? Because I fear offending a juror and, more importantly for me, I don’t know that I’m comfortable using the Bible to maximize damages in a personal injury case.

Would I ever do this? Certainly, it is possible. I think using the Bible in closing is analogous to crying. In the abstract and not in the middle of trying a case, I don’t think you can plan to quote Scripture in front of a jury. It is just too contrived, at least for me. But could I see myself doing either of these in a serious case when I am in the moment and I really believe? Yes.

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