July 23, 2013
Sensational Cases Making Jurors Skeptical, Says Dollar
Missouri Lawyers Weekly, November 8, 1999
Increased media attention to sensational verdicts has made jurors more skeptical of personal injury claims, according to plaintiffs’ attorneys. They say that today’s jurors often believe that there are too many lawsuits, that plaintiffs are unwilling to settle their cases, and that jury awards are excessive.
“I don’t think you can get around the fact that in your ordinary, run-of-the-mill case, the plaintiff has an uphill battle with jurors these days and really has to overcome juror bias against him,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Timothy Dollar of Kansas City law firm Dollar, Burns, Becker & Hershewe.
“Plaintiffs and plaintiffs’ lawyers are victims of bad press from the mass media about large plaintiffs’ verdicts, like the famous McDonald’s coffee case.”
“But the bias isn’t overwhelming against plaintiffs. You just have to do a little educating of the jury. If you do it well, you can overcome the bias that’s out there.”
But given the right facts and a concerted effort to establish credibility with the jury, experts say that the perceived “anti-plaintiff bias” can be overcome. They recommend that plaintiffs’ attorneys:
- use voir dire to educate the panel and weed out biased potential jurors;
- be candid about problems with their case;
- admit to partial fault where the facts dictate;
- avoid using legal buzzwords like “pain and suffering,” “emotional distress, and disability” and substantiate claims with demonstrative evidence;
- explain in concrete terms how a monetary award will help the plaintiff overcome his injury.