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Florida Mediator Michelle Jernigan

Jury Duty With a Mediator Mindset, Part 6: Conclusion

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Not only did I have the opportunity to see how a jury values a particular case, but also I gained insight into their thinking and decision making. Some of my assumptions were shaken; others were confirmed. I was concerned about the actual size of the pothole. This jury recognized that it was large enough to cause the damage complained of, so conflicts in testimony regarding the size did not bother them. This jury did not concern itself with minor inconsistencies in testimony, whereas my legal mind did. This jury did not seek to distinguish between symptoms from prior injuries and this one, whereas I did. This jury did not fall prey to the adage that juries are emotional and unpredictable. This jury saw through expert witnesses who were not credible. This jury did have sympathy for the plaintiff, but did not seek to punish the defendant.

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Florida Mediator Michelle Jernigan

Jury Duty With a Mediator Mindset, Part 5: Jurors’ Interviews

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I was released from the jury just prior to its retiring to deliberate the verdict. I was terribly disappointed that I was not going to continue to participate in a process I had talked about for years in mediation. However, I did maintain contact with two of the jurors and interviewed them separately. I prepared a long list of questions and had them rate those factors that significantly influenced their decision making. One of the jurors, a cellphone tower contractor, believed the contractor was at fault from the beginning of the trial. He was well aware of the responsibilities a contractor has for maintaining the safety of his job site.

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Florida Mediator Michelle Jernigan

Jury Duty With a Mediator Mindset, Part 4: Damages

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The jury’s methodology for determining damages was the most surprising aspect of the trial. The plaintiff’s lawyers submitted evidence showing the medical bills incurred by the plaintiff as a result of the injury were $95,000. The defense asserted some minor arguments regarding the medical bills but did not sufficiently persuade the jury to reduce those bills. Consequently, the jury awarded all the future medical bills requested by plaintiff and increased that figure for the cost of inflation. In closing argument, the plaintiff’s attorney also requested the jury award $150,000 in past pain and suffering and $150,000 in future pain and suffering. I latched on to these figures and assumed, based on my mediator mentality, the plaintiff’s attorney would think a $200,000 pain and suffering award would be reasonable.

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Florida Mediator Michelle Jernigan

Jury Duty With a Mediator Mindset, Part 3: Liability Issues and Causation

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The plaintiff asserted the construction company had been negligent by failing to exercise due care in re-routing traffic away from the pothole. There was no question the construction company knew about the pothole; the issue was what duty it had to protect the public from the pothole. The defendant’s expert opined that re-routing traffic was difficult because it required agency approval and was, therefore, not a practical solution. The plaintiff’s expert testified , to meet the duty of care, the defendant had to re-route the traffic.

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Florida Mediator Michelle Jernigan

Jury Duty With a Mediator Mindset, Part 2: The Jury

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Seven of us were selected to serve – six jurors and one alternate. I initially tried to guess who the alternate was but recognized it was futile. I had no real information from which to make that judgment. Our jury was composed of five men and two women. Two of the jurors were younger than 30; the rest of us ranged from 40s to 60s. Five of us were white, one was Hispanic and one was African American. One of the gentlemen was retired, while the rest of us were employed or had our own businesses. One of the younger jurors was in college, two of us had professional degrees and the remaining four had some post-secondary education.

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Florida Mediator Michelle Jernigan

Jury Duty with a Mediator Mindset, Part 1

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This story begins with the receipt of a jury summons from the Orange County Courthouse in the first quarter of 2014. … I had appeared for state court jury duty in the past but was never chosen to serve on the jury. I assumed this journey would entail the same experience – an opportunity to sit in the jury duty room, catch up on some reading, drink coffee, watch television and chat a little with those in the area. Just as I had selected my reading material and become comfortable in my surroundings, however, my name was called.

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