The impact is undeniable. An adorable little girl in a wheelchair, gurgling as her mother feeds her through a tube. A grown man, formerly at the top of his career, now communicating only with gibberish. A woman riddled with pressure ulcers confined forever to a bed, unable to do anything but stare at the ceiling while others tend to her needs.
These are the types of sympathetic plaintiffs we often encounter in our work, and even when jurors adamantly deny that sympathy will affect their verdicts, we know that oftentimes it is impossible for jurors to separate feelings from fact.
In a national survey we conducted last week of more than 800 respondents, 46 percent indicated that even if a judge tells them it shouldn’t, sympathy for an injured plaintiff would affect their decision on a case. This finding wasn’t a surprise to us – in fact, we were just surprised the number was so low. What was interesting to us was what emerged when we dug deeper, to see what kinds of demographics correlated with these sympathetic feelings.
We learned those most likely to say they would disregard jury instructions and let sympathy shape their verdict had one or more of the following traits:
- Works in hotel or restaurant
- State or government employee
- Younger than 30
- Not registered for any political party or registered Democrat
If you would like to learn more about the kinds of statistics we have in our database, contact Senior Vice President Claire Luna at firstname.lastname@example.org or 714.754.1010.