September 27, 2021

Volume XI, Number 270


September 24, 2021

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On COVID Time: Why Timelines Are More Important Than Ever

Timelines and COVID-19

Three questions dominated our COVID focus groups:

  • What did the parties know?
  • When did they know it?
  • What else was going on at the time?

Timelines are important in many cases, pandemic or not. They help establish a narrative structure, organize the evidence, and provide a framework for jurors to consider the facts of the case. In COVID-related litigation, organizing information in the context of a timeline is vital, as the timeline of the development of the virus and knowledge about it is critical context that should be superimposed on your case narrative.

A well-constructed timeline can bring these elements together, allowing jurors to gain a sense of how plaintiffs or defendants behaved in a way that was consistent (or inconsistent) with their knowledge at the time. Respondents in our groups repeatedly asked for the specific timing of actions within given case narratives, as they expressed that the timing was incredibly important in this context. They readily recalled outside information from their own lives, and recognized the vast amounts of misinformation that plagued the early days of coverage related to the virus.

Conflicting public information, the source of public information, and ‘inside’ information a company knew or should have known regarding COVID-19 are all critical facts. Notably, our research showed that across the three different venues, people had different assessments of government at the local, state, and federal level. Timeline entries need to reflect who the jurors are likely to view as a reputable source of information on the virus.

This summer, IMS conducted a series of twelve day-long focus groups across three important venues. This research was designed to gather insights from eligible jurors to help our clients understand the crucial case elements to consider among COVID-related litigation. As part of this research, we posed various hypothetical cases to the participants and gathered their comments.  

Read more here.

This post was also written by Jason Barnes.

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About this Author

Britta Stanton IMS Thought Leader and Trial Strategy Advisor IMS Expert Services
Trial Strategy Advisor

Britta Stanton is an IMS Thought Leader and trusted advisor to the firm’s top clients. An experienced trial lawyer with more than a dozen trial appearances and nearly twenty years of practice in state and federal venues, Britta has also advised clients on hundreds of cases and trials.

She has served as faculty for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy and graduated magna cum laude from Baylor Law School, where she also served on the Baylor Law Review. Her thought leadership contributions help clients explore best practices on topics ranging...

Associate Jury Consultant

Clint’s background in the fields of communication and trial consulting prepared him well for his position as jury consultant at IMS | The Focal Point. As an expert in the field of communication, he knows how to deliver crisp, effective courtroom messages. His work as a university instructor enabled him to develop an adaptive instructional style, which he now uses when he prepares different types of witnesses for trial. During his training as a trial consultant, Clint became skilled at evaluating mock trial data and identifying the traits that are predictive of verdict outcomes.