How are Jurors Affected by the Economic Downturn?

Tough economic times have affected every facet of our lives, including our jury system in Texas. Despite laws that protect jurors from being fired for their service, panel members have become increasingly more sensitive to missing time from work, especially in light of multiple state wide layoffs. This has created a greater resistance to serving on a jury and forced many courts to increase the numbers of those summoned to jury duty in order to have enough to actually seat a jury.

The recent political climate along with the recession has affected jurors’ perception of litigants as well as their attitude toward damages awards. Some jurors have become more skeptical and developed an anti-corporate sentiment, making it difficult to win certain types of cases. However, in the midst of layoffs, the recession has also made jurors think about the real world consequences of awarding a large verdict against a company. As a result, punitive damages awards against companies in 2008 were down 63 percent from their 2006 figures.  The defense attorney must strive to combat the vilification of corporations by distinguishing their clients as a network of hardworking people who will be unfairly and adversely impacted by a verdict for the plaintiff. A sociable, sincere, and even-keeled corporate representative should be present for each trial from start to finish, humanizing the company.

An effective voir dire can determine the extent of how the economic downturn has impacted an individual panel member. Different attitudes and life experiences will play a role in how the jury perceives a corporate defendant and may award damages. The recession is just another life experience that must be weighed when determining who to strike and will not cause a significant impact on every voir examination. For full article go to www.texasbar.com.