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August 22, 2014

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Las Vegas double-amputee hopes to bolster legal case with help of Google Glass

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Sam Morris

Gary Verrazono sorts his mail Wednesday, April 23, 2014.

Google Glass in Court

Gary Verrazono displays his Google Glass unit Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Launch slideshow »

The video starts with two legs reflected in a mirror between parallel bars used in physical therapy.

One leg is flesh, the other metal; there’s a green shoe and a blue shoe. The camera focuses on the wooden floor as the subject walks closer to the mirror and then looks up. The mirror reflects a man with a prosthetic arm and leg. He’s wearing Google Glass – the ballyhooed, head-mounted computer.

The clip is a fraction of the footage Gary Verrazono shot using Google Glass to show jurors his new life as a double-amputee after a boom lift crushed him while he was working at a race track in Sonoma, Calif. Verrazono, a Las Vegas resident, is one of three clients at Fennemore Craig Jones Vargas using loaned Google Glass to collect evidence for court cases.

The law firm is making the case that Google’s wearable computer could play an important role in its litigation.

“Instead of describing to a jury what it’s like to get groceries, they’re going to be in Gary’s body as he’s getting groceries,” said Marc Lamber, a partner at Fennemore Craig Jones Vargas. “As a mechanism to communicate to a jury what it’s like to experience what Gary experiences – or any client – Google Glass takes it to an entirely new level.”

The law firm received three pairs of Glass about three months ago to pass out to clients. They had been early adopters of the iPad – loaning tablets to clients in 2011 – and Lamber said the firm saw unique potential in Glass’ capabilities.

Glass operates like a wearable smartphone, equipped with a camera and hands-free access to the Internet via a thumbnail-sized screen projected in front of the user’s eye. Rather than have clients explain the impact of their injury or show a jury through third-person video, Glass’ first-person camera puts the jury in the clients’ shoes.

That intimate experience could be a difference-maker when it comes to a jury awarding damages.

“It’s the evolution of the goal being to put a jury in the best position to understand a client’s injuries,” said Andrew Clawson, a litigation expert at the law firm.

But it isn’t just about the camera. Lamber says Glass’ access to Google Cloud and video capabilities have improved interactions with their clients, who often are recovering in a hospital bed. They can videoconference or share legal papers with clients, all hands-free.

Fennemore Craig Jones Vargas put the product to the test with Verrazono, who lost both his right leg and right arm in an accident in 2012. He reached out to the law firm a week after the accident to help him understand his legal rights. After Verrazono struggled with an iPad for several months, the law firm introduced him to Glass.

“I was happy in a way and surprised,” Verrazono said. “Why would they be using me to try this? But I’m glad they did.”

While the case is still in pretrial, the law firm has had Verrazono record every moment of his life. In two months, he has collected hours of video. There are clips of him pushing a grocery cart one-handed and unable to reach certain foods, him attending physical therapy lessons, washing dishes and getting ready in the morning.

While Verrazono considers himself far from a tech expert (his most high-tech possession is his iPhone), he has become enamored with Glass. It gives him a semblance of mobility. He can talk on the phone, read legal documents or shoot video while pushing himself in his chair.

“It took me a long time to learn, because there is so much it can do,” Verrazono said. “But once I learned it, I love it.”

Lamber believes this is just the tip of the device’s capabilities. Once the technology becomes more widely available, the law firm plans to use Glass to evaluate test juries to see what evidence catches their attention and what doesn’t work.

“Google Glass is in the beginning stages,” Lamber said. “As apps increase, what you’re going to be able to do with this device is seemingly endless.”

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