We’ve previously discussed how a significant number of jurors outright disregard the law or judge’s instructions in favor of rendering verdicts based on perceptions of fairness. Our recent online and mobile survey of 1,212 jury-eligible participants confirmed this tendency, as 43 percent openly admitted they would rely on their sense of fairness rather than the law – consistent with numerous polls we have conducted.
This time, though, we delved further into what “fair” means to jurors and established some surprising findings.
First, we learned a majority of jurors believe it is “fair” for the defense to cover the plaintiff’s medical bills – even if they don’t believe the defendant was at fault.
Second, in their quest for fairness, an overwhelming 74 percent said they would consider attorney’s fees when calculating damages.
But the most shocking aspect of this figure is the answer to a follow-up question asking if they would still consider awarding lawyer’s fees even if a judge specifically told them not to. Thirty-three percent said they would ignore those instructions and award attorney’s fees anyway.
Finally, we learned fairness also includes the unforeseen, as slightly more than half of all respondents said they would award more money than the plaintiff demanded to ensure he or she is “taken care of.” When evaluating a case or going to trial, we believe it’s important to understand these aspects of damages will almost certainly be on the table and are an inherent part of jurors trying to ensure the plaintiff receives all of the money the jury wants them to get.
Although the juror tendency to ignore courtroom instructions and instead rely on their sense of fairness is a seemingly negative finding, we believe this can be a good thing – as long as you and your team take it into account and present a defense story that plays to jurors’ strong desire to achieve “fairness.” The plaintiff is likely to call on jurors to “make things right,” highlighting the importance of providing a competing narrative that ensures fairness and balance is not a one-way street and instead the “right people” are held accountable.
If you have an upcoming case and need to find ways to appeal to jurors’ inherent sense of fairness, we have a variety of research methods to help you achieve that goal. Contact Senior Vice President Claire Luna at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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We consistently advise clients to humanize defendants as a way to help level the playing field. In that same vein, we will be doing more to humanize ourselves by sharing notable events for the Jury
Impact team. We look forward to working with you soon!
Senior analyst Erik Holmes will be moving to Charlotte, N.C., at the beginning of July. His wife will be joining the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte as an assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology. Erik will remain an integral part of the JI staff, and this move will be a great benefit to our East Coast clients.
Director of Logistics Allison Cooper gave birth Saturday, May 4, to her first child. Her daughter, Peyton, weighed 7 pounds, 9 ounces. Baby and mom are both doing great – congratulations, Allison!