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 4 at uww-adr.com/uncategorized/jury-duty-with-a-mediator-mindset-part-4-damages.) More questions? Call on Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org or (407) 661-1123. Would you like to reserve a mediation time with Michelle? Visit our scheduling page or contact case manager Cathy McCleary (email@example.com).
Florida Mediator and UWWM Shareholder Michelle Jernigan
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.
Both of the jurors told me the foreman was selected by happenstance. The deputy bailiff had placed the documentary evidence in front of the youngest member of the jury so the other jurors teasingly said, “We guess you are the foreman.” Older, experienced jurors carried a little more weight in the decision-making process. All jurors provided some input. The jury would discuss an issue until it reached unanimous consensus. Then it would vote on that issue and move to another issue.
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. As the evidence unfolded, he became even more convinced. He felt there should have been some documentary evidence that the hole had been repaired. He and the rest of the jurors were troubled that no corporate representative of the defendant took the witness stand. The last straw was the variance in credibility between the liability experts for the plaintiff and the defense.
The two interviewees enjoyed their experience as jurors. They liked all four lawyers trying the case, with some variance in likability and their view of the lawyers’ capabilities. Likability of the lawyers and parties did have some bearing on the jurors’ decision making. They both said the trial was too long and the lawyers kept making their points over and over again. They did, however, recognize the lawyers may have done that to solidify their positions.
The two jurors interviewed indicated they neither desired to punish the defendant nor harbored anger towards the defendant for its negligence. They said all of the jurors believed the plaintiff had suffered a lot of pain, not only from the injury, but also from the surgery. The jurors did not seem to attribute any of her pain to her prior condition of rheumatoid arthritis. Rather, they responded to her rheumatoid arthritis in a compassionate and sympathetic manner. The jury did not discuss the availability of insurance; it did not impact their decision making in any way. They did not lean in favor of the plaintiff simply because the defendant was a corporation. The jury talked about the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and surmised they would be taken out of her recovery, but they did not specifically build a monetary factor for it into their verdict. The jurors liked the judge and appreciated that he permitted them to submit questions for review and that some of those questions were asked of the witnesses. They felt the judge was personal, accommodated their needs and was “down to earth.”
Next: The conclusion