5 Reasons Why Juries Award
Emotion and trust play
big roles in how a jury
rules in personal injury
and liability cases.
By Autumn Heisler
Described as being part of a “lottery mentality” trend, jury awards are reaching into the tens of millions — and even billions — of dollars for personal injury and liability lawsuits. Just look at some of the payouts from recent verdicts: • $35 million was awarded;to a quadriplegic man battling his
insurance company after being hit by a drunk driver.
• $1 billion was awarded;in a record verdict by a 12-person Georgia jury to a
young rape victim.
• $150 billion was awarded in damages;to the family of a child who was
These awards are “hollow victories” in that they will likely be lowered by a trial
or appellate court. However, they set a tone for how trial-by-jury can go if a case
progresses to that stage.
1. Jurors’ distrust in big corporations and their lawyers can lead to vengeful
The very divisiveness of a big corporation-versus-the-individual case is driven
by anger. There’s a perception rooted within the jury that a corporation has only
one goal in mind: money.
“The majority of our jurors believe corporations are unethical and will do
anything to maximize a profit. There’s a mistrust in the companies [the defense]
works for, whether it’s a health care facility or an energy plant. Corporations are
deemed part of the ‘privileged elite,’ ” said Kristin McMahon, chief claims officer,
North American specialty, global risk solutions, Liberty Mutual Insurance.
But this distrust isn’t just for defense attorneys and the corporations they
represent; jurors’ skepticism runs deep for the plaintiff’s attorney, too. In fact,
jurors are frequently;doubling the award;amount requested by the plaintiff’s
attorney at trial to “be sure the injured are taken care of,” said McMahon.
“It’s more of a lottery mentality rooted in distrust of corporate America.
How else do you explain jurors returning with awards of $50 million, when the
plaintiff’s counsel only asked for an award of $25 million?
Jurors are endorsing a political philosophy of ‘populism,’ supporting the rights
and power of the people in their struggle against a privileged elite, which is how
the defendants are often viewed,” she said.
Social media, she added, plays into that distrust on both sides: “We live in a
world of ‘fake news.’ That plays into distrust across the board.”
2. Attention spans are shorter, leading to jurors paying less attention to
lengthy testimonies and complex explanations.
The average attention span of a healthy adult is anywhere from 10 to 20
minutes. That same adult’s reading level, on average, will be equal to that of a
This doesn’t align with the way cases are presented, with lengthy
arguments and extensive medical presentations from the defense’s physicians
“Seasoned trial counsel can no longer rely on the same playbook, providing
the jurors with days of expert technical
testimony regarding the science
supporting their defense,” McMahon
And young folks aren’t invested in
the trial testimony for the long-haul.
“I think we’re in a transition
period. [The defense’s] strategy has
to change to appeal to the younger
millennial generation jury pool and
employ videos, graphics and virtual
reenactment of the accident scene as
part of the defense.”
• A pattern of juries granting
bigger plaintiffs’ awards is
• Distrust plays the biggest role in
a jury’s decision making.
• Defense attorneys are under
pressure to change the way they
“Only 19 percent [of millennials]
agree that most people can be
trusted. That’s a low number.”
— Kristin McMahon, head of claims, North American
specialty, global risk solutions, Liberty Mutual
Juries are awarding verdicts well beyond what is being asked by plaintiffs’ attorneys.