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What Do Jurors Think?
 
 

By: Jacob E. Daly

Figuring out what jurors think – and, therefore, predicting what decisions they will make – is critical to success at trial. Many lawyers believe they have this figured out, but of course it is impossible to know the attitudes and beliefs of any one juror or group of 6 or 12 jurors. DecisionQuest is a national trial consulting company that has been tracking potential jurors’ attitudes for decades. It recently published the results of its 2017 National Juror Attitude Survey, which involved 1,201 respondents from 12 major metropolitan areas. Some of the results are eye-opening.

For example:

  • 90% agree that there are too many lawsuits.
  • 75% agree that plaintiffs’ lawyers manufacture lawsuits just to enrich themselves.
  • 73% agree that personal injury plaintiffs fake illness or injury to get money.
  • 68% agree that a lawsuit would not go to trial if the plaintiff did not have a legitimate claim.
  • 50% believe that damages awarded in lawsuits are about right; 42% believe they are too high; and 8% believe they are too low.
  • 79% are angered by at least some things about corporations.
  • 42% believe that corporations will do anything to maximize profit.
  • 72% agree that conspiracies between business persons are common.
  • 69% believe that companies destroy their own records to avoid taking responsibility.
  • 79% agree that awarding punitive damages against large companies is the best way to get them to behave more responsibly.

Some of these findings are difficult to reconcile with other findings in the survey as well as with actual results in real trials. The bottom line from this survey is that there is both good news and bad news for personal injury plaintiffs and defendants, especially corporate defendants. The key for each side, obviously, is to maximize the good and to minimize the bad. Predicting jurors’ decision-making is an imprecise exercise at best, but having as much information as possible about their attitudes will help with emphasizing issues that exploit their beneficial attitudes while avoiding issues that promote their harmful attitudes.

For any questions, please contact Jacob Daly at [email protected].