Tragic Plot and the Personal injury Case


Aristotle in Poetics teaches the phenomena of tragedy and the elements of a tragic play. Applied to a personal injury case we know we must have: a hero, who sustains adversity, does his best to overcome the adversity, but no matter how hard he tries he will never fully overcome.  Our client is the hero. The adversity is the injury. Treatment is trying to overcome the injury. Not being able to fully recover is permanent injury.

Aristotle teaches plot distinguishes great tragedy.  Plot is bigger than the hero. Plot concerns how the universe works, plot is universal truth. Plot is recognized as such by the audience (jury). In great tragedy the audience sees the hero like them subject to the universal truth. According to Professor Barbara McManus, Outline of Aristotle’s Theory of Tragedy, in Poetics:

Aristotle defines plot as “the arrangement of the incidents.” This is not the story itself but the way the events are presented to the jury. This is the structure of the trial. Personal injury trials that depend on a tightly constructed cause-and-effect chain of actions are superior to those that depend primarily on the plaintiff.  Trials that meet this criterion have the following qualities:

The trial must be “a whole,” with a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning starts the cause-and-effect chain. In the beginning causes are downplayed and effects are stressed. The middle flows from earlier incidents and causes and effects are stressed. The end results from the preceding events. Here causes are stressed and effects downplayed. The end solves or resolves the problem revealed at the beginning.

The plot must be “complete,” having “unity of action.” By this Aristotle means the trial must be structurally self-contained, with the incidents bound together by internal necessity, each action leading inevitably to the next. The worst kinds of trials are “‘episodic [where] acts succeed one another without probable or necessary sequence.” The only thing that ties the case together are events that happen to plaintiff. Events that occur to plaintiff must have a fated connection to the universal truth. While the lawyer cannot change the facts that make up the case, he “ought to show invention of his own and skillfully handle the traditional materials” to create unity of action in the trial.

The trial must be “of a certain magnitude,” both quantitatively (efficient and understandable) and qualitatively (universal significance). Today Aristotle would agree trials should be straight forward and efficient showing universal truth and significant meaning so the audience responds by implementing the universal truth. 

    7 Responses to “Tragic Plot and the Personal injury Case”

    1. […] posted here: Tragic Plot and the Personal injury Case | Zen Lawyer Seattle Segnala presso: This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged discussed-how, injury, […]

    2. Rodney M. says:

      What a good correlation between Hero and plot. Plot is the main source of the information and the hero serves as the “victim” of the plot.

      The final verdict of the jury or judge will depend on how the plot impacts the fact finder.

    3. Eryn Martina says:

      hi there, good site, and a very good understand! 1 for my favorites.

    4. John Galoni says:

      Wohh exactly what I was searching for, thanks for posting. “If it’s meant to be it’s up to me.” by Terri Gulick.

    5. Bobby Warr says:

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    6. Darrick Jelome says:

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