Experiences with Lawsuits
Understanding jurors’ experiences with lawsuits and damages awards is an essential element of jury selection in civil cases. Our recent Alameda County jury selections revealed that 16.5% of the pool had made some type of claim for damages, and 8.2% said that they had been a target of a claim for damages.
Opinions about Lawsuits
Jurors’ experiences with lawsuits often shape their attitudes. For example, if a juror has been a plaintiff in a lawsuit, then that experience may make them more sympathetic to other plaintiffs. Similarly, if a juror has been sued in the past, they may have developed resentments about being sued, which might make them more likely to identify with defendants. The type of case and the parties involved may override the impact of a jurors’ experiences on attitudes about lawsuits, but experiences with lawsuits are worthy of examination regardless.
In our research of recent jurors in Alameda County, the most common opinion is that there are too many lawsuits today (43.5%). Many other jurors (42%) either did not know, or did not have an opinion, about the number of lawsuits. Only 14.5% did not agree that there are too many lawsuits.
Opinions about Damages Trends
The majority of the jurors who completed these questionnaires responded that they did not know or had no opinion about trends in damages awards. The next most common opinion, from 22.3% of the pool, was that damages have generally been too high. Almost 12% believe that damage awards have been “about right.” Only 9.5% of the jurors believe that damages have been too low.
Limits on Jury Damages
From the charts above, we gathered that there were a good number of people who had what some might consider anti-lawsuit attitudes. Approximately 44% of the pool said there were too many lawsuits nowadays and 22.3% said damages awards were too high. Despite those opinions, only 15.9% (of n=69) of Alameda County jurors who completed questionnaires in our cases believed there should be limits on what a jury can award in damages.
Jurors also answered questions about their opinions of damages awards. Only one-third reported having an opinion about punitive damages. This question is typically followed by an open-ended question about what the jurors’ beliefs about punitive damages are. Regardless of whether we’re working for plaintiffs or defendants, we like to follow up with these jurors to understand their receptivity to punitive damages.