Jury Justice: Expensive to Lose, Hard to Get the Settlement
Together, the risks inherent in jury trials and reversal of court decisions provide ample reason to instead mediate early and effectively.
It is true that the Dallas Morning News reported some unexpectedly large Plaintiff’s verdicts in Dallas County in 2017. October saw a $26.5 million personal injury award; July saw a $1.8 million defamation verdict for a wedding photographer; and, September saw JPMorgan Chase get hit with $4.0 billion (yes, BILLION) in punitive damages and $4.7 million in actual damages in a Dallas Probate Court.
If newspapers are your only source of information regarding trial trends you could justifiably conclude that Dallas is a Plaintiff’s dream come true. Bear in mind, however, the reason each of the above made the news is because the numbers are large, and the results are unusual. That’s what made them newsworthy. Cases wherein a plaintiff was rear ended at a stop sign, but the jury inexplicably found the defendant to have no fault, never make the news. Those verdicts happen all the time and are thus not newsworthy.
Further, news sources tend to ignore the post-trial life of a lawsuit. It comes as a surprise to many practitioners that Texas Courts of Appeal reversed jury verdicts that favored plaintiffs 49% of the time, but only reversed verdicts that favored defendants 25% of the time. If the case involved wrongful death, these judges reversed 44% of the verdicts favoring the plaintiff, but only 7% of the verdicts favoring the defendant.
An enlightened and motivated litigant can find trial data outside of news reports. With that data it is possible to fashion a predictive program to forecast a representative case’s chance of success. Certainly insurance companies have been trying to perfect just such a statistical approach. Those programs are fairly good at predicting generalized results, but horrible at predicting specific outcomes. It is guaranteed that no such model predicted any of the awards mentioned hereinabove.
The only 100% guaranteed result is that reached by and through mediation.
Garry Cantrell – December 26, 2017