Jury Duty With a Mediator Mindset, Part 4: Damages

Last year, shareholder A. Michelle Jernigan served on a jury at the Orange County (Fla.) Courthouse. This series offers a glimpse of how a mediator thinks in a situation like this. (See Part 3 at More questions? Call on Michelle at or (407) 661-1123. Would you like to reserve a mediation time with Michelle? Visit our scheduling page or contact case manager Cathy McCleary (

Florida Mediator Michelle Jernigan Florida Mediator and UWWM Shareholder Michelle Jernigan

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. The two jurors I interviewed after the trial did not recall the plaintiff’s request for a specific pain and suffering award in the closing argument. Rather, they focused on the jury instructions regarding pain and suffering:

"a. Injury, pain, disability, disfigurement, loss of capacity for enjoyment of life:
" Any bodily injury sustained by (name) and any resulting pain and suffering [disability or physical impairment] [disfigurement] [mental anguish] [inconvenience] [or] [loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life] experienced in the past [or to be experienced in the future]. There is no exact standard for measuring such damage. The amount should be fair and just in the light of the evidence."

From this jury instruction, the jurors gleaned that there were eight categories of pain and suffering damages. They decided to award specific sums of money for each category. As they came to the last component, they decided to round up the amount of damages to $500,000 in total. The jury ultimately awarded $718,900: $215,400 in past and future medical expenses, $3,500 in lost wages and $500,000 in pain and suffering damages.

Next: Jurors' Interviews


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