Personal Injury as Tragedy

Having learned from Simon Rifkind all trials are plays, I sought a theatrical formula appealing to audiences over time that mirrors a personal injury case. I found  Aristotle in Poetics sets forth what has become the classic formula for tragedy and it fits a personal injury case.

Plato and Aristotle argued about whether the study of tragedy is worthy of a philosopher’s time. Plato maintained all theater including tragedy is  entertainment not rising to the level of philosophical interest. Aristotle disagreed. Aristotle argued tragedy at the highest level involves the audience. The audience feels the tragic plot in cause and effect sequences that mirror universal truth.

In high level tragedy two things happen to the audience. First, they pity the tragic hero. Second, they fear the tragic result (the adversity) could happen to them. Aristotle maintains when this occurs the audience experiences a cathartic event – a purification or spiritual renewal. According to Aristotle, when members of the jury identify with  plaintiff, pity the tragic result dealt plaintiff, and fear the result could happen to them, a catharsis occurs in the verdict as the jury rights the wrong.

It is important to note tragedy is neither staged nor made up. As taught by Aristotle tragedy represents reality.  People recognize tragedy and if possible want to remedy tragedy. When a personal injury case has the dynamics of tragedy we have a case worthy of trial production.

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