After asking jurors about their understanding of, and agreement with, the Collective Knowledge jury instruction, we asked them to explain what the instruction meant to them in their own words. The instruction read as follows:
The knowledge obtained by corporate employees acting within the scope of their employment is imputed to the corporation. Accordingly, if a specific employee knows something within the scope of his or her employment, then the corporation can be said to know that same thing.
The corporation is also considered to have acquired the collective knowledge of its employees. The corporation’s “knowledge” is therefore the totality of what its employees know within the scope of their employment.
The jurors’ statements about Collective Knowledge demonstrated surprisingly sophisticated views about the instruction. Even though the Collective Knowledge concept seems abstract and arcane, many people were able to form thoughtful opinions about it.
If you have a case where Collective Knowledge is an issue, it will be important to develop effective case themes and jury selection strategies that address the varied perspectives that jurors have about this concept.