Lockout. If you’re a sports fan or even a casual news surfer, you cannot escape word that America’s favorite sport – professional football – is in jeopardy. Players and owners are at odds and this Wednesday, the National Football League Players Association will face off against the NFL and its owners in an injunction hearing before a Minneapolis Judge (for some flavor click here to see the NFLPA’s brief filed last week). There is a real chance the 2011 NFL season will be disrupted. A few lawsuits (including one by former NFL players) have already been filed and there is talk of a similar dispute playing out later this year between professional basketball players and the National Basketball Association. Continue reading →
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 →
They show up in nearly every jury panel.An unexpectedly flamboyant or oddly eccentric juror who offers too much (irrelevant!) information at the drop of a hat, responds to your oral voir dire question about lawsuits against corporations by telling you about his third cousin Simon’s run-in with a cantankerous Big Box store employee in Akron, Ohio.“That store is a spacestation for dictators!”
He looks like a wildcard and he’s given you reason to fear he may be opposed to your case.You hate the risk of leaving him on the panel for simple fear of what he may say and do in deliberations, but you also expect the quiet female juror in the corner may have it out for your corporate defense client.What can you tell your client if the oddball commandeers the jury?Shouldn’t you have seen it coming?You use your last peremptory strike on “Kramer,” allowing the high risk female juror to sneak into the jury room and help decide the fate of your case.A few insights help inform this either/or jury selection choice in the future.Continue reading →
“I mean honestly, I think that some of the most convincing witnesses were the ones that were actually there.”[Male juror in his mid-20’s]
Many commercial litigators assume an upper-level manager’s ability to handle sticky questions, describe company policies and profess company values shouldbe useful to jurors’ evaluation of the company and the behavior at issue.Probably the most important witness, right? I mean, these manager-types are high achievers, decisive managers, and confident communicators – a perfect fit for the role of company rep and star witness.They’ll take the stand early on, deliver the key messages with a sparkly grin, and slam the door on your opponent’s case.Right?Make these assumptions at your client’s (and your own) peril.Continue reading →
I think corporations have way too much power and they squash the little guy.
Last week in a federal district courtroom in northwestern United States, Juror #4 shared some of the most transparent and scathing opinions of American corporations ever to bounce off a courtroom wall.Just as his cutting remarks were starting to gain steam, the judge cut him off mid-sentence and promptly dismissed him from the courtroom for cause.Jurors’ anti-corporate bias is nothing new.And it is no real surprise to encounter a juror who believes in corporate deception and conspiracy – after all, “Corporations are what’s wrong with this county.”The twist in this civil jury trial came from a slightly different place.The court heard Juror #4’s comments no sooner than the Defendant’s brief oral voir dire, and if not for defense counsel’s targeted voir dire question, would never have heard it at all.
The lesson is clear.Once you’ve identified the highest risk attitudes and opinions for your case, do not refuse to ask jurors bluntly and openly about them for fear an honest response will poison your panel.Ask the question.Make sure jurors tell you the answer.You need to know how bad it is.Continue reading →