The newest version of California Civil Jury Instruction Companion Handbook has recently been published by Thomson Reuters. Written and compiled by retired Court of Appeal Justice Elizabeth Baron, this book discusses the CACI jury instructions for civil cases, using 40 real cases as examples of how the CACI instructions (as well as some special instructions) were used in actual trials.
Among the cases discussed in the handbook is Schultz v. County of San Diego, in which we represented the parents of a 22-year-old Marine who died when her car hydroplaned on a flooded road and collided with a utility pole. We argued at trial that the road had a long history of flooding and that the County had failed to take reasonable steps to address the problem. The jury returned a verdict in the amount of $4 million against the County.
The handbook includes comments by Justice Baron and by Roger Booth concerning a number of the instructions given in the Schultz case, addressing issues such as the order in which the instructions should be given, why certain instructions are particularly important and which instructions should be emphasized in closing argument. Similar comments are included with each of the 40 sets of instructions in the book.
This book is a great resource for really understanding how jury instructions should be used. Too many lawyers only open up the CACI book on the eve of trial. But the CACI instructions set the ground rules for how your jury is going to decide your case, so they really ought to be reviewed at the outset of the case and used as a roadmap for investigation, discovery and trial preparation.