On COVID Time: Why Timelines Are More Important Than Ever

By Britta Stanton Esq., Jason Barnes, and Clint Townson, Ph.D.

This summer, IMS conducted a series of twelve day-long focus groups across three important venues. This research was designed to gather insights from eligible jurors to help our clients understand the crucial case elements to consider among COVID-related litigation. As part of this research, we posed various hypothetical cases to the participants and gathered their comments.

Timelines and COVID-19

Three questions dominated our COVID focus groups:

  • What did the parties know?
  • When did they know it?
  • What else was going on at the time?

Timelines are important in many cases, pandemic or not. They help establish a narrative structure, organize the evidence, and provide a framework for jurors to consider the facts of the case. In COVID-related litigation, organizing information in the context of a timeline is vital, as the timeline of the development of the virus and knowledge about it is critical context that should be superimposed on your case narrative.

A well-constructed timeline can bring these elements together, allowing jurors to gain a sense of how plaintiffs or defendants behaved in a way that was consistent (or inconsistent) with their knowledge at the time. Respondents in our groups repeatedly asked for the specific timing of actions within given case narratives, as they expressed that the timing was incredibly important in this context. They readily recalled outside information from their own lives, and recognized the vast amounts of misinformation that plagued the early days of coverage related to the virus.

Conflicting public information, the source of public information, and ‘inside’ information a company knew or should have known regarding COVID-19 are all critical facts. Notably, our research showed that across the three different venues, people had different assessments of government at the local, state, and federal level. Timeline entries need to reflect who the jurors are likely to view as a reputable source of information on the virus.

Timelines will carry massive weight in COVID litigation, and the process of identifying the vital points for inclusion on your case timeline has become more complex – and more crucial. Our trial strategy consultants help clients determine which events will be most important to emphasize on a timeline, and our trial graphic designers conceptualize how to best outline the numerous points to create directional flow and facilitate jurors’ understanding of case details and the narrative.
In Depth Analysis

For more insights visit our COVID-19 Client Resource Hub.

Contact us today to discuss the specific needs of your case and learn more about the application of these insights for your client.

IMS ExpertServices

IMS ExpertServices delivers consultative trial and expert services for the most influential global firms. Over nearly three decades and through more than 20,000 cases and well over 1,000 trials, clients have trusted IMS to equip them with the perspective and tools they need to help their clients succeed. With offices in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dallas, Pensacola, and New York, the company provides trial strategy consulting, jury consulting, trial graphics consulting, trial presentation consulting, and expert witness recruitment and management. IMS has earned nine consecutive rankings on the Inc. 5000 list, won recognition by The National Law Journal in six categories of its “Best of 2020” awards, by Corporate Counsel Magazine as winner in eight categories of its “Best of 2019” awards, and as “Go-To Thought Leader” for two consecutive years by The National Law Review.


FEATURING: Britta Stanton, Esq.

As a former trial attorney, Britta pays rigorous attention to details and reviews case issues with laser-like focus. An experienced trial lawyer with nearly twenty years of practice in state and federal venues, and now as a trusted strategy advisor with the company, Britta has advised clients on hundreds of cases and trials. Read more about Britta Stanton>>


FEATURING: Jason Barnes

Jason Barnes is a trusted senior advisor to the firm’s top clients. A pioneer in the field of trial graphics since 1990, he helped to transform the standard of courtroom presentations from hand-crafted poster board to modern digital technologies. With three decades of trial experience, encompassing over 100 trials and more than 500 cases, Jason has a deep understanding of trial preparation and practice. Read more about Jason Barnes>>


FEATURING: Clint Townson, Ph.D.

With a Ph.D. in the field of communication, Clint knows how to deliver crisp, effective courtroom messages. His work as a university instructor enabled him to develop an adaptive instructional style which he now uses when he prepares different types of witnesses for trial. Read more about Clint Townson>>

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