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Defending Cases Rooted in Circumstantial Evidence: Excluding and Preventing Speculative Facts and Inferences

Recording of a 90-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE webinar will discuss strategies for countering and excluding circumstantial evidence and related inferences to pave the way for summary judgment or possibly a directed verdict. The program will review distinguishing proper inferences from speculation, the problem of inferences from inferences, and strategies for summary judgment and directed verdict motions. The panel will also discuss how to avoid confirming circumstantial evidence.


Cases, claims, and defenses rooted in circumstantial evidence come in all shapes and sizes. Circumstantial evidence is evidence of a collateral fact that supports an inference that some ultimate fact is correct. Circumstantial evidence can be misleading; inferences can masquerade as speculation and conjecture. Counsel must be vigilant throughout the case to prevent improper evidence and inferences.

When deciding admissibility, summary judgment, or post-trial motions, courts differ regarding how firm the truth of the circumstantial fact must be to make it admissible and whether any resulting inferences must exclude all other alternatives or be consistent with the ultimate fact. Sometimes a court may apply a different standard or rule than the one articulated.

A party opposing circumstantial evidence must prepare to rebut it, requiring meticulous investigation. Letting such evidence ride through the case may be seen as corroboration of vague testimony or faulty logic, resulting in an unfavorable verdict or forced settlement.

Listen as this esteemed panel of litigators discusses defending cases built on circumstantial evidence and how to overcome it.



  1. Defining circumstantial evidence
  2. Standards governing permissible inferences from circumstantial evidence
    1. Only reasonable inference
    2. More likely than not
  3. Issues proved with circumstantial evidence
    1. Liability
    2. Causation
    3. Motive
    4. Accident reconstruction
    5. Contents of missing documents
  4. Strategies for rebutting circumstantial evidence


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What is the difference between permissible inference and speculation?
  • When does circumstantial evidence become res ipsa loquitur?
  • What strategies exist to prevent courts and juries from unsound inferences?
  • Does weak circumstantial evidence lead to nuclear or runaway verdicts?


Erick, Casey
Casey S. Erick

Cowles & Thompson

Mr. Erick is a Shareholder and focuses on Commercial Litigation and Employment Law.  He has represented clients in...  |  Read More

Quinn, Robert
Robert Quinn

Drew Eckl & Farnham

Mr. Quinn focuses his practice on general liability defense. He has a strong background in representing defendants...  |  Read More

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