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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Trial

The Trial
I was selected last Monday to serve on a civil trial.



Tuesday morning the lawyers presented the case with their opening statements.  

A thirty-year-old man (Mr. X), a husband and father of a young son was driving to work, a job in general construction.  He was at a stop light and a woman (Miss Y) was momentarily distracted and rammed him from behind. 
The car was totaled, though from pictures totaled probably meant it could be repaired but it was an old vehicle and not worth the cost of repair.  The driver was taken to the hospital complaining of headaches and dizziness.  He was possibly unconscious for a period of time after the collision.
Miss Y admitted guilt, the question was in the amount of money to cover medical damage and also pain and suffering.  When I hear “pain and suffering” I often think “pay and bluffering.”  

The accident did not seem that bad, and the claim so severe I was skeptical. 
Mr. X claimed he had headaches, could not concentrate, was often dizzy and had no stamina.  He also claimed depression as a result of the accident.  His lawyer would call several doctors and experts to specify his ailments, verify his disability and suggest a fair settlement.
The defense did not dispute liability for damages, they disputed the extent of Mr. X’s disability.  They would call doctors to dispute findings of plaintiff’s doctors.  They also would show that Mr. X had blood clots in his leg for years before the accident, was on anti-coagulant drugs and had a non-accident related tumor (fancy medical name, not cancer, not growing) in his head that was only discovered while he was in the hospital.
At stake was lots of money.   As a jury, we would have to decide how much money.  If the judgment was greater than Miss Y’s insurance coverage she could lose everything and be bankrupt.   If Mr. X suffered as a result of the accident, he should be compensated, but how much?  Was his suffering, if real, due to a preexisting condition?
In the morning, we heard testimony from Mr. X’s wife.  I was leaning toward the injury being mostly fake. 
The wife was engaging, her testimony unrehearsed, she was genuine.
Her husband could now only work several hours a day three to four days a week.  He used to work 40 hours a week both on salary and on his own contracting business.  He was (demonstrated) a talented amateur artist who had not painted since the accident (2011.)
Mrs. X worked housekeeping.  She went from a few clients before her husband accident to now working 6 days a week eight hours a day for many clients in order to make ends meet.  This couple seemed to have a strong work ethic.  

I was now leaning towards the disability being genuine.
The problem as I saw it? Was the disability the result of the accident, or did his medication and previous condition make him a walking time bomb with the first bump or slip causing brain trauma.  The man was disabled, but should someone have to pay, and for all we knew be bankrupt, because they happened to be the catalyst of the inevitable?
One life was diluted by brain trauma, would another life be ruined by possible bankruptcy?  All due to what was essentially little more than a fender bender.
On one hand I was anxious to discuss the case with my juror peers, as they seemed such an interesting, intelligent, eclectic group; not like previous jury’s I have served on.  On the other hand, this was going to be a very difficult decision that would have tremendous effect on possibly two basically innocent families.
We were not called back from our lunch break at the appointed time.  Was there a settlement?  I hoped so.  Not just to get out of what could be a five-day trial, but also because I sensed a very difficult decision.
Long story short, they settled.  I’m assuming insurance covered damages and Mr. X was justly compensated.  A satisfactory ending to a difficult situation. 
A decision I was not looking forward to deliberating was averted.

Was my time and the time of the court and other jurors a waste?  I don't think so.  I think it sometimes takes going to court, and having a jury trial process to force both parties hand and start talking to reach a reach a fair settlement. 
It is an interesting process from selection to trial.  It is an inconvenience to serve, but it is also an honor.  It is a system which sets us apart from many other countries.  An imperfect system to be sure, but in lieu of an all-knowing-benevolent ruler, it is a damn good system.

24 comments:

  1. I've been on juries twice - both times, just small cases, petite jury, and done in a couple hours.

    I love it.

    I'd do it once a year if they wanted me to.

    It's great to see not everyone bemoans having to go down to the courthouse to keep the systgem running...

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    1. Or the "system" even... Not that there's anything wrong with the word "systgem."

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  2. There is something about having a jury seated and testimony beginning that makes parties willing to settle or take a plea bargain. That's what I was told. Interesting case. It would have been "fun" to see where it had "landed" had your jury been allowed to deliberate it. I had a friend in a car accident where she was hit from behind. It did trigger an exacerbation of a known condition. She tried suing and lost and ended up costing her money with attorney costs, etc. Perhaps settling would have been in her best interest.

    Now you can probably be assured you won't be called for jury duty for a bit of time. We were assured on our trial that we wouldn't be called for at least 1 year (big jury pool needed in the San Diego area).

    betty

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  3. I'm glad they managed to reach settlement, and quickly too. From what you've said, I'm of the opinion that he was/is a walking time bomb and the fender bender simply triggered the headaches etc which might (or were sure to) have appeared soon anyway. I'm glad the young woman wasn't left bankrupt, thus ruining her chances for a decent future.

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  4. It's good that it was settled. Sure is an ideal lesson for anyone to pay attention when they are behind the wheel. All of this could have been avoided if Miss Y hadn't been distracted.

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  5. I'm happy they settled. Making those kind of decisions that may negatively effect the lives of seemingly good people would be very difficult.

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  6. That would be a dilemma to figure out, i'm glad they settled. It does happen, too, in criminal cases. Last time i was called in, one man changed his plea to guilty on a lesser charge after he saw the jury. Something about facing people makes it real.

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  7. Interesting and I'm glad it was settled. I've been rear ended twice and neither time did I want to even file a claim because there was no damage to my van (different story for the other drivers). I was harassed by their insurance companies. I'm guessing they wanted to pay me off? It was bizarre.

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  8. The hubs and I have never been called for jury duty. It sounds as though you were prepared to look at the situation fairly on behalf of both parties.

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  9. I'm glad you didn't have to make this decision at the end of the trial. There are so many variables. Thank you for being a good juror.

    Have a fabulous day Joe. ☺

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  10. Would you have liked it, if you had to make the judgement? It is a big responsibility.
    Yes, the Judiciary System in the US is great.

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  11. May I submit to the jury that if Miss Y was TEXTING at the time of the accident, I vote GUILTY on all counts of felony rear-ending!

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  12. I'm glad you didn't have to make that decision. It's not easy knowing the outcome is going to hurt someone else.

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  13. What a dilemma it is to be on a jury. It is especially so for those of us who have the sign of Libra prominent in their charts. Libra's sign is the scales and they can see both sides of a situation. Did you ever go to lunch with a Libra person and listen to them try to decide what to eat? And then when the order is finalized and the waiter is ready to leave, they say, "but wait a moment, I think I'd like to change my order." LOL Groan......

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  14. Interesting. . . of the two civil juries I've sat on, neither time did the parties settle after the trial had started. One time, I think, we were all in the waiting room, ready to march down to the courtroom, when word came that the parties had settled. . .

    I would've hated to have to decide that case. . .

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  15. As you say, Joe, "an imperfect system" - but better than most other options!

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  16. I congratulate you for doing your civic duty, which I will also do if I'm ever called to jury duty.

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  17. Good for you. I feel that way too. I served on several criminal trials last year, and when I worked for MaBell, I was called on Federal jury duty and served on drug case for 3 months. Very interesting.

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  18. Interesting and fortunate that you were spared a tough decision. Yes he had that preexisting condition but had she not hit him, he possibly might never have developed the tumor and had his life altered so. Not sure which side I'd have come down on. The settlement was the best solution. Well done.

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  19. I wish they would call me up for jury duty more often. I have the time now. I always enjoy the process. I wouldn't of wanted to serve on the OJ trial - that would of been real disruptive on my young growing family at the time.

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  20. You were robbed! You lost your chance to discuss the merits of the case.

    For five years, I worked for the division of employment security. That's the unemployment office, but we weren't allowed to call it that. My job was to hear the fired person's side, and the employer's side, and determine whether the claimant got unemployment compensation (totally paid by employers in the state of Missouri, so don't think that THEY paid into it and should get it).

    Sometimes it was a slam-dunk. Sometimes it was hard to decide, and I had to go with the most credible statement. Of course I had official guidelines to follow, and sometimes they'd get their compensation after 4-16 weeks of penalties.

    That's what jury duty always made me think of. Hearing both sides, and trying to be fair.

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  21. You were an excellent juror as evidenced by the thought you put into it. I think often times civil trials are just giant games of chicken.

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  22. I would have had a hard time, too, trying to decide on this case. Glad it settled and you were spared having to make a tough choice.

    It always amazes me how long something like this drags on...five to six years is a long time to wait for money (for the injured person) or having a sword like this hanging over your head (for the person who did the rear-ending).

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