Google “public apology” and watch the results pile up. Within the last 24 hours a famous clothing designer, a city councilman, a Boston nightclub and countless others have issued apologies for their varied transgressions. We’ve covered this territory in previous posts. We’ve even laid out a pretty simple description of what constitutes a complete apology that recipients and third parties (and jurors!) are likely to perceive as sincere. So why are we talking about apology again? Is it truly pie-in-the-sky to expect jurors to accept Defendant apologies?
Two recent studies shed light on the vicious cycle of apology and increasing skepticism on the part of the jury-eligible public. One study from Psychological Science examined reactions to betrayals of trust by asking some of the betrayed to evaluate an imagined apology and others to evaluate actual apologies for the betrayal. Researchers found that people who imagined an apology were more satisfied than those who actually received them. A recent post from Scientific American highlights the finding that our expectations of apology may indeed be pie-in-the-sky. Continue reading →
“There is danger in all sports, anyone who plays them takes that risk for themselves.” -Mock Juror in recent sports litigation research
Athletes choose to play sports that involve risk. Athletic teams, coaches and organizations are aware of the risk just like players. So, how much personal responsibility does an individual athlete have for safely participating in his or her chosen sport? What must the player and the organization do to make sure all possible safeguards are in place to reduce risk? Who should be held most responsible?
Jurors (and judges, arbitrators and mediators) confront these basic but critical questions in sports-related lawsuits like that of former college football player Stafon Johnson. This week, Mr. Johnson sued the University of Southern California and ex-assistant conditioning coach, Jamie Yanchar, claiming negligence in the 2009 weightlifting incident that resulted in severe injuries to Mr. Johnson’s throat, threatening his life, ending his college football career, and potentially limiting his professional career. Continue reading →
In the wake of November 2nd’s Congressional Mid-Term elections, and another change in the party in charge at the House — widely read as a referendum on President Obama — the focus of punditry has turned to the question of whether the President “get’s it,” or not. As President Obama, again, acknowledged America’s frustration over a sluggish economy, one commentator after another has raised that question. In addition to making good political theatre for news junkies, there is also a litigation connection. We know that clients aren’t always perfect, and when a lawsuit is brought about by one bad outcome or another, the defendant is often in the position of acknowledging the tragedy of the situation, including potentially their own mistakes as well, while still defending themselves on liability and damages. That is a stance that could lead jurors to ask, “Does the defendant really ‘get it’ in this case?” with the ‘it’ being an appreciation for the the seriousness of the events, or an understanding that makes unnecessary any potential ‘lesson’ from the jury.
When one or more elements of liability are uncontested or obvious, then an apology is often called for. But when that isn’t the case, then there is potentially some middle-ground between defensive denial and abject apology. Showing the jury that you ‘get it’ may be that middle ground. Continue reading →