October 31st, 2011
The Center for Justice and Democracy has just published a report concerning jury verdicts in civil liability cases and media coverage of them. They found, not surprisingly, that the media, particularly online media, commonly emphasize large monetary awards, which do not reflect typical verdicts, and rarely note the misconduct that led to the verdict in the first place. They conclude that the reported jury verdicts were 192 times higher than the national averages when damages are awarded.
This reporting provides problems in litigation of medical malpractice cases. Potential jurors can become skeptical, or biased against the victims of medical malpractice because of the news media. It is rarely reported when a patient dies or is grievously injured as a result of medical malpractice and no lawsuit is filed. Those people quietly suffer and, in effect, subsidize the cost of medical care in the United States. This means we work extremely hard in jury selection to both educate jurors about the ramifications of the particular case that they are to decide, and try to find jurors who are not so biased by the continuing news media that they will not be able to fair in serving.
One phenomenon that we have seen over the years is that jurors who fear that they may be too sympathetic to the injured person, always announce that fact, and as a consequence are struck from juries. However, there is a category of jurors who feel it’s their duty to not admit to any bias, sit through a trial, and make sure that the verdict is in favor of the hospital or physician. It takes great skill to identify these jurors, and get appropriate responses to disqualify them.