Power of the Self-Protective Mechanism
I was running some focus groups this past weekend on a negligence case where the main issues were causation and damages. Without breaking any confidentiality, I’d like to share some of the juror viewpoints. In one group, jurors ultimately found causation but felt that money doesn’t do much good so why give any? (This is typical as you probably know). The other group started off going in a similar direction until one juror in particular started speaking up. Here are parts of the conversation:
Juror 1: That’s the hope that if we catch this one, they will put out a policy to prevent this from ever happening again.
Juror 2: It might be us for all we know.
Juror 1: Let’s send a signal to [Defendant] and to their corporate offices. We have to send a serious signal by virtue of a dollar amount that we as a society will not tolerate negligence of any kind…Let’s send them a serious signal…A serious signal is in the millions where they can taste it. Let them hurt now..All of us could end up [here]. At least we could consider we had a small part in making a difference.
Juror 1 convinced 6 of the 8 other jurors to go along with him. How much would you love to have Juror 1 on your jury? His motivations are simple. While punishment may seem like the primary goal, the punishment is only secondary to his own safety. He sees the defendant’s negligence as something that could affect him and so his only way to remove himself from the danger is to try to end the danger itself by sending a message to the defendant. This was all without any punitive damages arguments in the presentation. So that I do not overstep any boundaries, I won’t go into detail on a public forum of how to best formulate your case so that jurors start thinking in this manner but certainly study David Ball and Don Keenan’s Reptile and/or contact me individually. I simply wanted to share a pertinent moment from my weekend with jurors. Hopefully it makes a few of you smile.