I have been describing in my prior two posts how it was that my client’s complaint, alleging Undue Influence California Civil Code §1575 (and, if brought today, Elder Abuse), came to trial in the Orange County Superior Court Orange County Superior Court. Now I will describe the trial itself.
In general, trials, whether they be concerning trusts, probate or just civil litigation, all follow the same pattern. The counsel for the person who made the allegations of misconduct (usually referred to as the “Plaintiff” or “Petitioner”) begins with opening statement. This is when he or she tells the court what he expects the evidence brought before the court to prove. Counsel for the other side (usually referred to as the “Defendant” or “Respondent”) then makes his or her opening statement. At the conclusion of opening statement, counsel for the Plaintiff/Petitioner begins the case by calling his first witness. Generally, the witness testifies about facts within his or her knowledge and written evidence that he or she is competent to testify about (terms like competency to testify about written evidence are addressed in the California Evidence Code, e.g. Evidence Code §701) Counsel for the Defendant/Respondent then is allowed to cross-examine the witness, challenge the testimony or admissibility of the evidence, and when done, the next witness is called to testify. Once the Plaintiff/Petitioner has presented all of the evidence and testimony for his or her client, counsel for the Defendant/Respondent has the opportunity to call witnesses and introduce evidence that he or she believes is favorable for his client.
In this particular case, I called my client and her husband as witnesses to testify to the close relationship that my client had with her cousin and how that relationship changed once the caregiver came on to the scene. I introduced as evidence the Power of Attorney that my client had been given by her cousin, along with other documents that showed that she had been doing a good job handling his financial affairs. The other side called the elderly gentleman as a witness and then, around 4PM, called the caregiver to the stand.
What she said during my cross-examination of her won the case for my client. That will be in the next post.