After asking jurors about their understanding of, and agreement with, the Collective Knowledge jury instruction, we asked them to explain, in their own words, what the instruction meant to them. 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.
These statements about Collective Knowledge demonstrate that jurors have surprisingly sophisticated views about this instruction. When given this instruction, many people have opinions about it in spite of the fact that the concept of Collective Knowledge seems abstract and arcane.
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.