|CLASS ACTION: TRANSCRIPT OF DEFENSE ATTORNEY’S ARGUMENTS
Case 2 – Dixon vs. Nordeen: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome on Trial
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, thank you for being here today. I’m here to represent Jessica Nordeen. James Dixon has sued Jessica because he’s upset and he’s angry. His baby, Seth Dixon, wasn’t born perfect, and he’ taking the stress and pain of that out on Jessica Nordeen. James Dixon claims that Jessica was negligent when she drank while pregnant. It’s true that she drank, but she wasn’t negligent.
Let’s look at what the law says about negligence. It says two main things: First, a plaintiff must show that the defendant owed him a duty and caused him harm by breaching that duty. Now, the second thing the law says is that negligence occurs if an individual does something harmful than a person of ordinary intelligence would not do. Negligence can also occur if an individual fails to do something to prevent harm that person of ordinary intelligence would do in the same situations. Now that same situation is very important. Applied to this case, it means that to be found negligent you must say that Jessica did something that harmed James Dixon that any reasonable young person would not have done in the same situation.
You’ll notice that the plaintiff’s lawyers didn’t tell you about any law making it illegal for a pregnant woman to drink. There is no such law. That’s because the law only steps into personal family decisions in the most extreme cases. These kinds of decisions are personal and they’re left to the family. Now what does that mean to this case? Well, it means that the law doesn’t create any duty that Jessica Nordeen owed to James Dixon. You may still find she had some responsibility to James, but the law by itself doesn't tell – try to tell them what to do in their family. Only you can try to step in and do that today.
Even if you say a duty did exist, you must also believe that Jessica breached that duty in order to find her negligent. In this case, Jessica’s duty wasn’t breached to James Dixon. That is, Jessica acted reasonably for her situation.
Now think about her situation. To better understand that situation, put yourself in her shoes seven years ago. You’re seventeen years old, you’re in high school, and you’re not worried about your future. You’re in love with your boyfriend. You’ve got great friends. You go to parties, and sometimes you drink too much. Your whole life’s ahead of you, though, everything’s looking great. But then you find out you’re pregnant. Your whole life changes in an instant. You’re scared. You don’t know what to do, where to turn. Everything’s out of control. Everybody starts telling you what to do. It’s like they want to love your life for you. Your doctor gives you a whole stack of brochures and pamphlets to read, but you skim them, but there’s just too much information in there. You can’t remember it all.
Your boyfriend tries to tell you what to do, but he’s such a hypocrite. One minute he’s telling you not to drink, because it’s not good for the baby, the next minute he’s out partying with you. And besides, when it comes down to it, you’re trying your best to take care of your baby. Once you’re pregnant, you don’t get drunk anymore. You drink a few, but you don’t get drunk. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Jessica Nordeen. A young woman, torn in many different directions, not knowing who to believe or what to do. In this situation, any young woman would have tried to stick with her friends, tried to keep some semblance of her old life, and for Jessica that included having an occasional beer or two. At least she tried to take care of her baby, by minimizing her drinking once she knew she was pregnant.
Now today, you the jury must determine whether it’s right for the courts to step in and tell women when they can’t drink. You must decide whether Jessica Nordeen’s occasional beer was a breach of her duty to James Dixon. Was she negligent towards him? I don’t think so, and I think you’ll agree. You must also consider justice in this case. What is the right outcome? Now to help make the right decision, put yourself back in Jessica’s situation. You’ve done your best to prepare for your baby, but in the end, Seth was born with fetal alcohol syndrome.
Now jump ahead three years. James sues you because Seth wasn’t born perfect. He says you shouldn’t have drunk while you were pregnant. You finally have a chance to put your life back together with this inheritance from your grandfather, and James wants to take that away.
Now ladies and gentlemen, is this right? Should James Dixon be rewarded because his baby has FAS? He chose to father a baby, now he’s trying to avoid those – the consequences of his choice? Should he get part of Jessica’s inheritance, solely because Jessica did what any other teenager would have done in her situation? I don’t think so, and I hope you’ll agree.
What has happened in this family is a tragedy. A loving relationship has ended, and a child and his parents face a very difficult life. Don’t make it any harder than it already is. Deny James Dixon’s suit, and let Jessica get on with her life.
Thank you for your time.