Defusing Nasty Excess Cases: It's What We Do

New Assessment is a three-stage service that provides proven leadership on late-notice excess claims in as little as ten days. 

1)    Research the Existing File
We first show where the case is headed using First Court’s proprietary Live Deliberation jury research. This is a shrewd blend of online trial and face-to-face to face jury deliberations, typically using jurors from the trial venue. The purpose is to uncover the strengths and weaknesses in the file as primary counsel has worked it up.  

2)    Improvements, Please!
A national team of experienced trial lawyers reviews the results, brainstorms with us, and provides practical alternative arguments for our clients. Clients select the reviewing counsel from their own list, or they may choose from our list of outstanding and proven trial leaders.  Bottom Line:  You get a fresh vision! 

3)    Research the Improvements
The ideas for improvement espoused by reviewing counsel are then tested in a second Live Deliberation.  To help the lawyers sound good in a very short amount of time, we provide them with a teleprompter.  To help the lawyers look good we provide them with a courtroom studio.  You get to see the passion and trial experience of excellent lawyers in action.


Needed:  Urgent Trial Leadership


Our team has deep national experience with high-stakes litigation.  Let’s begin with the organizers of the New Assessment program, First Court, Inc. 

First Court has researched and settled lawsuits in 41 states over the past 25 years. We have handled celebrity lawsuits, premises cases, product liability claims, wrongful deaths, wrongful births, drownings,  burns, dramshop actions, bad faith claims, commercial disputes, class actions, gross sexual impositions, murders, quadriplegia, paraplegia, TBI, amputation, truck and motor vehicle accidents, discrimination, employment disputes, PTSD, CRPS, medical malpractice, legal malpractice, nursing malpractice, nursing home abuses, sexual abuse cases, sexual assaults, dehydration cases, oil field explosions, one alienation of affection claim …  and one wrongful herpes claim.    

The leader of the New Assessment program, Mike Liffrig, has headed up the research effort in 95% of the above cases.  By training and experience, Mike is a lawyer himself (J.D. University of Michigan, 1985).  He has worked in both insurance defense firm and plaintiff firms.  Since 1989 Mike has worked with dozens of the nation's most elite defense lawyers and carriers, creatively defusing virtually every sort of excess claim problem. 

Mike is a steady hand that you can rely upon when much is at stake, and has a gift for bringing the best out of a high powered legal team.

1.    What are the research trials like?

The trials combine the convenience of an online trial with the spontaneity and unpredictability of a face-to-face deliberation.  The format combines the efficiency of the internet with genuine jury deliberations, the heart of the civil justice system.  

a.    Each juror is from your venue and is personally interviewed by phone. You will know a great deal about the backgrounds of each juror.

b.    The jurors are told that First Court is a mediation firm, and that the trial is an ADR procedure. They will believe that they are helping us to resolve a real lawsuit, that what they do and say will have a huge impact on the lives of real people.

c.    Lawyers make a 10-minute argument for each side of the case to all 18 jurors through our secure web-based software;  the jurors provide instant feedback throughout the trial. We will pose questions to them that go to the heart of the arguments, e.g. “What is the most important thing you heard this lawyer say?”

d.    We then present witness testimony (written summary or video excerpts) for another 40 minutes, while our jurors provide more instant feedback and ask a slew of questions.  “What is one word or phrase you would use to describe witness Jones?”  OR  “Do you believe witness Jones is telling the truth? Yes  No  Please explain why or why not.”   All of this feedback is available instantly, in real time. It is like drinking out of a fire hose! 

e.    The lawyers absorb all this feedback, and then appear to the jurors on a video connection to make live closing arguments for another ten minutes each.  This is where clients get to see their lawyers shine!

f.    The jurors answer our final questions and provide 18 individual verdicts.

g.    We then select the three strongest plaintiff jurors to square off against the three strongest defense jurors in a face-to-face deliberation lasting up to two hours. This can be repeated with another group of six jurors.  Clients watch the deliberations unfold in real time, and can chat with one another on a confidential text messaging service we have built into our software.

2.    What role does the primary carrier play?  And the lawyers hired by the primary carrier?

They play whatever role the excess claim handler wants them to play. We can conduct the New Assessment with their full knowledge and cooperation;  and if our excess client has access to the discovery in the file, we can also do what we need to do without any input from the primary team.


3.    How much time is required for a busy lawyer to help out in a New Assessment project?

Minimum time required is four hours:  Two hours to digest the key facts of the case and the findings of the first group of jurors; and two hours to come up with ideas for improvement.

If possible, we would like our reviewing counsel to participate in the second research trial by providing a videotaped opening argument incorporating his or her ideas for improvement, along with a live closing argument, and then a final analysis of the second trial. This typically requires an six more hours.

All of a reviewing lawyer’s work may be done remotely— traveling to the trial venue is not required. 


4.    What about conflicts of interest?

The reviewing lawyers will each decide whether they need to check for conflicts of interest. Many do, of course, and this can be a significant barrier for lawyers practicing in larger firms. 

5.    Are you looking for other experienced lawyers to help deliver New Assessments to excess carriers?

Yes, we are very much interested in connecting with experienced trial counsel, lawyers who do well with the pressures of a late notice excess claim.  Interested lawyers should contact Mike Liffrig at 701-400-7727 and [email protected]

6.    How much lead time is required?

Naturally this will depend on the schedules of the lawyers you choose and on our availability. We make a great effort to retain the capacity to begin a New Assessment project within ten days.

We recommend that you give your reviewing lawyers a week to think about the reactions of the first jurors; your second set of jurors can typically be available within that same week of time. Then we will need a few days to complete your final report.  This means that the total time we like to have, start to finish, is about three weeks.  If that is not possible we can, of course, find ways to deliver results even faster.

7.    What will a New Assessment cost?

As anyone with a late notice excess claim knows, excellent trial leadership is invaluable:  in this sort of litigation, one good idea can save millions of dollars. We enthusiastically recommend this service as the best investment any carrier can make whenever there is at least $3 million at stake. Please call us to discuss costs, as they vary with our availability.

The New Assessment program has two cost components:

1.    Counsel Fees:  You tell us which lawyers you want on your New Assessment team, and we will do our best to convince your Dream Team to participate. You may choose your own reviewing counsel, or you may choose from our list of outstanding and proven trial leaders.  Each lawyer has a specific emergency rate. You may choose as many reviewing lawyers as you like—we recommend at least two. 

2.    Base Fee:  First Court’s Base Fee is charged on a “red line” basis. This means clients are encouraged to  strike   (i.e. draw a red line through) any portion of First Court’s service that was less than excellent.  This protects the bottom line of our clients as they make this investment, it forces First Court to constantly improve, and it promotes a healthy long-term relationship our clients.  The red line items include: