By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm
Two jurors sit side by side in the box reacting to the same information. The first sees a consumer who chose to use a product in a deliberately risky manner and has no one but himself to blame for the resulting injury. The second sees a company that had the knowledge and the power to foresee the patterns of consumer use and deliberately chose to ignore the risks by, instead, hiding behind unrealistic warnings. The story and the facts are the same, but the differences in juror mindset and attitude lead to strikingly different conclusions.
Product cases can end up being small morality plays in a theater located at the intersection between corporate responsibility and individual responsibility. In that context, some jurors naturally pose a greater danger to the product defendant, and there is a need for a good way to find out which ones. We know at this point that the answer doesn't lie in juror demographics, and it isn't easily discernible through occupation or anything else that is easy to see in the panel. Instead, what we need is a reliable metric to discern the most relevant attitudes. We've written before on the Persuasion Strategies Anti-Corporate Bias Scale which provides a seven-question validated measure of the attitudes that predict an initial leaning against the company in an individual versus corporation suit. While the scale applies to litigation generally, it can also be useful in particular contexts like products liability. This post, the third in our series, will focus on the role of anti-corporate bias in products cases, and share the findings resulting from application of our scale.