How the Pandemic Affects Juror Perspectives …and how to adjust your litigation strategy accordingly

By conducting a series of nationwide surveys, Magna consultants examined COVID-19’s impact on prospective jurors’ attitudes and beliefs. Let’s look at the facts:

In today’s world, many jurors feel the need to be the “guardians of the community” by forcing companies to change their bad behavior with large damage awards. Litigators and those in the insurance industry refer to these as “reptilian jurors,” who are responsible for the increasing frequency of “nuclear verdicts.”

Factors that drive up verdicts include:

  • Juror Vulnerability, Fear, Volatility, & Polarization
  • Rising Costs & Uncertainty of the Future
  • More Millennials on Juries
  • Bad Testimony or Misidentification of Corporate Representatives
  • Anti-Corporate Bias – “Profits over Safety”
  • Not Setting a Floor or Providing a Low Damages Anchor
  • Not Addressing Key Issues/Themes in Jury Selection/Opening

Magna Legal Services conducted a series of nationwide surveys with over 5,000 respondents to assess evolving changes and shifts in juror perceptions.

Our research has shown the below trend in recent juror perspectives:

In general, many potential jurors are now more vulnerable than they were pre-pandemic, which can make them more plaintiff-friendly. However, the most vulnerable and risk-averse people are less likely to show up for jury duty or are less likely to be seated on a jury currently. As a result, juries have been slightly more pro-defendant in the short-term. As the pandemic fades and pro-plaintiff jurors become more comfortable, trends should gravitate to normalcy.

Views of corporate America remain mixed as a result of the pandemic. Corporate survival during the pandemic is directly dependent upon corporate adaptability and being a Good Corporate Citizen. Jurors are still respectful of competition and innovation; however, jurors also believe corporations are more likely to cheat and act unfairly nowadays. Notwithstanding idealism and cynicism being long-standing predispositions of the U.S. jury pool, jurors’ views have become more polarized during the pandemic. Respectively, competition in the marketplace is primarily still a function of ‘fairness’ as opposed to being seen by jurors as ‘ethical.’

Now more than ever, it is important to know how juror perspectives changed in your specific venue for your specific case issues.

It’s not a question if the pandemic will affect your cases… it’s a question of how it will affect your cases. Luckily, there are some research tools to answer this question and give you the current data you need to adjust your litigation strategy.

Adjusting your Litigation Strategy— What to Consider for Your Post-Pandemic Cases

1. Venue-Specific Damages Assessment

  • Case valuation research, such as Magna’s JuryEvaluator, will offer a scientific and statistically significant damages assessment by using mock jurors in your case-venue and facts from your actual case.
  • This research will consider the effect of COVID-19 and current media climate, to provide insight into your case risk, exposure and value.
  • A statistically reliable Damages Assessment report can be used in mediations and settlement conferences to help settle a case before it goes to trial.

2. Social Media Surveillance

  • Utilizing social media surveillance is more beneficial now more than ever – the pandemic had more people spending time online for socializing, work, school and virtual events.
  • Between the recent election, shift in the economy, social justice movements and debates surrounding the pandemic, a person’s online activity can give you the insight you need concerning their views and any biases they might have.
  • Social media surveillance can be used in discovery, during jury selection and throughout trial.

3. Changing Juror Biases

  • How has COVID impacted juror perspectives in your venue? Test your themes, storylines, social climate & more with online focus groups.
  • Utilizing enhanced AI technologies to maximize value of empirically-based, case-specific and venue-specific jury research– this robust data helps you build an effective litigation strategy and presentations geared to the jury’s current perceptions and biases.

4. Virtual is Here to Stay

  • Despite the initial naysayers and skeptics, the “new normal” has been forever changed – virtual hearings, depositions, bench trials and jury trials are here to stay. Don’t be caught flat-footed or left behind… our experienced litigation consultants can help you effectively navigate this Brave New World!