Defense Prevails in Trial Team Final Four
The University of Florida Trial Team marked the end of its four-week selection process by holding its annual Final Four competition Oct. 3 in the Bailey Courtroom.
Final Four advocates, Amanda Brus, Katrina Gavette, Joshua Lukman and Kara Wick, who were chosen from a pool of almost 100 students, presented their arguments for the fictitious civil case Smith v. Lighter Corporation.
Brus and Wick, counsel for the defendant, were awarded the title of “Best Overall Team.” Wick was also named “Best Overall Advocate.”
The plaintiffs, represented by Katrina Gavette and Joshua Lukman, sued the defendant, a manufacturer of cigarette lighters, represented by Brus and Wick, for damages arising from a fire that occurred in their mobile home in the imaginary state of “Sunshine.”
As a result of the fire, the plaintiffs’ 8-year-old daughter was severely burned and their 5-year-old son died.
“This is a case about the defendant’s lighter, which caused the family a devastating loss,” Gavette said.
The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant manufactured a defective lighter that caused the fire. Brus argued that the lighter was equipped with 17 perfectly safe parts as well as a label that warned parents to keep the lighter away from children.
“The best child-proofing device is the watchful eye of a parent,” she said.
The Honorable Judge Stephan Mickle served as the presiding judge. At the end of the competition, Mickle congratulated both sides on their dynamic closing arguments.
“It did my heart good to hear those arguments,” he said.
Both sides’ arguments matched or exceeded some of the arguments heard in actual courtrooms, Mickle said.
Jennifer Zedalis, advisor for the trial team, also expressed her satisfaction with the team’s quality.
“I am so proud of these students that I could pop,” Zedalis said.
Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, P.A., a litigation firm with offices in Florida and Alabama, sponsored the tournament. The jury was composed of J. Scott Kirk, James A. Edwards, Sara J. Burton and LaShawnda K. Jackson, all attorneys at the firm.
Wick, a second-year law student, said that it was important to remain calm under pressure and to imagine that the distinguished judges were just normal jurors, she said.
“It was definitely intimidating,” Wick said.
Gavette, who plans to be a litigator in the future, described the experience of trying out for the elite team as “exhilarating.”
“It’s such an honor, especially knowing the number of students that tried out,” she said.
Brus, who has a strong background in theater and was involved in a mock trial team in high school, heard about the team last semester.
“I told myself ‘I am making the trial team,’” she said. “I couldn’t wait to start.”
Enrolling in a trial practice course with Zedalis helped Lukman prepare for competing with the trial team. It is important to avoid overcomplicating legal arguments, he said.
“Simplify the communication with the bench,” Lukman said. “Don’t get too caught up in it.”
Lukman, who is interested in litigation and foreign legal issues, looks forward to meeting the expectations of the team.
“I don’t want to let them down,” he said. “I know they picked me because they saw that I had potential.”