Regretfully, corporate America, the insurance industry and business fraudsters and wrongdoers have such disdain, anger and disrespect directed towards jurors and the jury system as a whole. Their position is that the jury system is just intolerable! The real reason and the truthful reason: the jury system in the U.S.A. puts the rich and powerful wrongdoers on equal footing in a courtroom with someone who has been wronged, harmed, injured or killed by the conduct of these wrongdoers….and they just can’t stand the fact that it is the way it is under our great system of justice. As far back as 1988, many of us who represent plaintiffs in injury and death cases sought to allow jurors to be more involved in the trial process itself. We sought to have laws or rules changed so that jurors would be allowed to take notes – (makes sense doesn’t it?). We sought to change the rules so that jurors could ask questions of witnesses (by writing the question out and providing it to the judge who could then determine if the question was appropriate). In this way, it would help jurors better learn the case and understand the issues and so much more. Every step of the way the insurance industry and big business and corporate America fought us in our quest to more involve jurors in trials. When substantial verdicts are announced, it is corporate America and the insurance industry who condemn the decision made by the jurors. The sad truth is that the rich and powerful don’t trust juries or the jury system. They will, however, give “lip service” to do their dead level best to try to make the public think that they really do have respect for the jury system by putting out statements every so often talking about the virtues of our American “jury system.” Yet, behind the scenes they work hard to do everything possible to minimize or diminish or even eliminate trial by jury. One of their strategies is to do away with jury trials and force parties into a panel of arbitrators who would made the decision in a case. Another strategy is to eliminate the right to trial by jury in certain cases and simply allow a judge alone to make a decision – and for the most part, those judges are appointed by those who are like-minded and philosophically – connected to those pushing the anti-jury and the tort reform agenda.
There are many extraordinary ways in which Americans give “service” in the name of duty to our great country, i.e., military service, jury service, holding office at the Federal/State/Local level, teaching children in our schools, servicing patients in clinics and hospitals, managing security within our airports, and so much more. Jurors sacrifice their time, efforts, energy and in most instances, even money in order to work hard and come together to arrive at just and meritorious verdicts. The last thing in the world jurors need is for these big, rich and powerful companies and people to be all over the internet and the media condemning the jurors for their decisions and ridiculing the jury system which the rich and powerful so abhor.
The American Tort Reform Association fails to give any credibility to jurors’ decisions - even going so far in one case to refer to the jurors’ “punitive impulses.” In the case of Reavis, et al. v. Toyota Motor Sales, et. al. – a case which had been tried in Texas, The American Tort Reform Association jointly with the National Association of Manufacturers filed a Brief during the Appellate process in support of Toyota – the manufacturer of the defective vehicle – an incident rendering a 3-year old boy and a 5-year old girl horribly and catastrophically injured, including severe brain damage. The jury had ruled that the vehicle had defects which made it “unreasonably dangerous.” In this case, the trial court judge allowed evidence of other incidents. The Brief, IMHO, shows such disrespect and distain for the jurors indicating that this “other-incident evidence” was simply being used “….to trigger the jury’s punitive impulses.” Nothing can be further from the truth. Evidence of other incidents is used to demonstrate awareness or knowledge on the part of a given manufacturer as to a problem it has with its vehicles or a particular component part of the vehicle so that it can remedy the vehicle before more and more and more consumers purchase or rent the vehicle. These “tort reform” groups have concluded long ago that jurors do not think things through and they give jurors no credit for being smart people or people with common sense who genuinely take the time to evaluate evidence in a given case. The indeed is a disgraceful position for these tort reformers to be taking in our society.
In 1788 Thomas Jefferson stated “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its Constitution.”
John F. Romano
West Palm Beach, Florida
March 18, 2020