COLUMBUS, OHIO, August 24, 2023 (USANews.com) - Courtrooms can be solemn and equally intimidating places to be. Rarely do lawsuits reach trial - often times being settled outside the courtroom and behind closed doors. Not the case here, though. Take it from Chris Reel, the 33-year old attorney who has quickly started to turn heads in the industry after a monumental jury trial win that resulted in a unanimous jury verdict exceeding $1 million, netting his client over $900,000 and the emotional relief that justice was served.
The Story Behind the Triumph
Chris was brought into the lawsuit over a year after it had started by friend and colleague Samir Dahman - partner in charge of Kohrman Jackson and Krantz LLP's Columbus, Ohio office. And when Chris walked in, it was already extremely contentious. Accusations and counterclaims with financial implications in the multi-million-dollar range were on the table and the pressure was on. Chris was called upon to steer the ship through these tumultuous waters and advocate for the best outcome he could. Despite coming on board over a year into the case, their arrival marked a shift in the legal narrative.
"You could say that my creativity was one of the reasons I was brought in as lead trial counsel on this case." Said Chris. "I've always been the creative type and try to implement creative solutions for clients whenever it makes sense."
And creativity is indeed something Chris needed to bring to the table here. As part of the counterclaims raised against his client, were allegations of fraud. These claims are serious enough, but the opposing party was prepared to back these claims up with testimony from a top expert witness, who was prepared to testify that his client had manipulated his business's financial records, resulting in a skewed valuation and appraisal of the business amounting to a discrepancy of over $1 million.
"One hurdle we had to get over was the fact that expert witnesses cost money. A lot of money." Said Chris. "My client didn't have a business anymore. He sold it to the other party in this lawsuit. So, they had the opportunity to pay for an expert but we didn't."
Not having an expert witness can be a hard hill to climb when the other side has polished expert testimony.
"Experts are inherently credible witnesses. They're opinions carry major weight in the courtroom and can change the trajectory of any case." Said Chris.
Chris wasn't armed with a counter-expert witness, and had to get creative. Ultimately, Chris crafted the idea that he wouldn't attack the credibility of the expert witness. That would just come across as expected and, in Chris's eyes, could lose points with the jury. Instead, he would attack the information that the expert witness used in crafting her expert opinion.
"I poured over the expert witness report so many times I feel like I could recite it from memory at this point." Chris laughed. "I needed to get into the details of the report and understand the basis for it. The goal wasn't to show that their expert wasn't an expert. She very clearly was and her resume speaks to that, having provided expert testimony in hundreds of cases before this one. So, the goal wasn't to show she wasn't an expert… it was to show that she was an expert, without all the information."
According to Chris - this served a dual purpose. "If this worked, it would discredit the expert's testimony before the jury and it would also start to paint a picture of the opposing party in the jury's mind that would ultimately lead them to trust my witnesses more."
So on cross-examination that's what Chris did. Introducing key pieces of evidence that didn't try to trip the expert up, but instead have her form a more well-rounded opinion in real-time in front of the jury.
"Basically, I was trying to change the expert witness into becoming somewhat of my expert witness." Said Chris. "By introducing documents to the expert that ultimately would make her contemplate her opinion and offer testimony that seemed to shift gears, would make it seem like she didn't ultimately have all the information she needed to make a full expert opinion on the matter."
And it worked.
The Jury's Verdict
The time came for closing arguments and jury deliberation. Given the nature of the case and its complexities, both sides were given an opportunity to present a closing argument and rebuttal. And during closing arguments, in the gallery sat his client's wife as she had the entire duration of the trial. Little did Chris know, that she would be moved to tears by Chris's words.
"I had no idea that she started to cry." Said Chris. "That obviously wasn't my goal. My goal was to show the jury that if justice is to be served in that courtroom it needed to be in favor of my client and that the evidence proves this."
And when the jury returned its verdict, it unanimously held that Chris's client was entitled to over $1 million in damages. As part of the counterclaims, the jury did render a majority verdict for the other party that ultimately netted Chris's client approximately $900,000 in damages.
"Reading those verdict forms I was in shock at first." Said Chris. "It's not often that a jury returns a unanimous verdict for over a million dollars. And here I was holding a verdict form that returned just that. It was surreal, but also a testament to the hard work, dedication and honor our entire team showed throughout the entire lawsuit."
Walking out of the courtroom, Chris transformed an uphill and extremely contentious battle into a monumental victory. With this groundbreaking victory, Chris has firmly established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the legal arena. His exceptional legal skills, combined with an unwavering dedication to justice, has started to set him apart as a rising star in the profession. And he's only just getting started.
For media inquiries or to schedule an interview with Chris Reel, please contact:
Chris Reel is the founding attorney of Reel Brand Counsel, a boutique brand protection law firm based in Columbus, Ohio and St. Petersburg, Florida. Chris's law firm works with small to midsize brands to protect their vital intellectual property and other business interests, through high-stakes transactions, disputes and negotiations.
You can find out more about Chris and his firm at www.reellawfirm.com.