Lawyer’s “Reptile Theory” Closing Improper, But Not Cause for New Trial

A jury returned a $150,000 verdict for a plaintiff who broke a tooth on a small bone fragment in a Wendy’s hamburger. Following the verdict, the trial judge granted the defendant’s motion for a mistrial due to the plaintiff’s lawyer’s improper “reptile theory” closing and ordered a new trial. In the closing, the lawyer appealed to the jury to protect the community from harm to be caused by the hamburger chain’s potential future actions. The new trial produced a $10,000 verdict. The plaintiff appealed. The Massachusetts Appeals Court agreed that the plaintiff’s lawyer’s closing was improper, but held the trial judge used the wrong standard when declaring a mistrial and ordering a new trial. Read more here.