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Diminishing Jury Verdicts and the Economic Recession: Do They Go Hand in Hand?

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Jonathan Cooper
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Last month, Bloomberg's research confirmed that which those of us who been selecting juries or trying cases have known for some time: there has been a clear downward trend in the top jury verdicts over the last several years. My colleagues at Carroll & Carroll have also noted that the top jury awards nationwide from 2007 were nearly 75% lower than the top verdicts from two years earlier, in 2005.

Why am I writing about this, you ask? Because it is important for anyone who retains an attorney, whether for a personal injury matter, a defective product lawsuit, or even for a small business or commercial litigation matter to understand that the courts have disallowed exorbitant jury awards, particularly in the aftermath of the United States Supreme Court's decision which held that punitive damages must, as a general rule, be capped.

The second, and perhaps more important, thing that the prospective client to assimilate is that juries have grown increasingly conservative, especially as the economy has soured. Although it could easily be argued that the two are wholly separate and distinct, and the product of a multitude of factors, I think that two are certainly inter-related, and intimately. And I think the following illustration clarifies this link: how can you expect a juror who has just lost his job, and will need to return to the unemployment line immediately after completing his jury service, to empathize with your claim that you only made $1.5 million in profits last year instead of the $3 million you would have earned had your unfaithful and disloyal employee not stolen or embezzled your proprietary information and trade secrets? You can't.

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Jonathan Cooper
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