This author has already published an article discussing the importance of preserving the jury system, and posed ideas for Jury Reform in Personal Injury Cases. A recent article in the New York Times discusses another detrimental impact to the jury system and the experience of jury duty: fear of financial ruin in these economic times.
During our current economic recession, where people are getting laid off by the thousands or clinging to their jobs, many people are expressing their fear of missing work to serve on a jury. The laws in every state forbid companies from taking action against employees for serving on jury duty. Still, potential jurors have expressed concerns about missing several days away from the office, especially when their companies have made several layoffs in recent weeks.
This recent phenomena is a concern for plaintiff personal injury lawyers, and their clients. Many such attorneys fear that jurors who are selected for jury duty, despite their concerns of financial hardship, will blame the plaintiffs for making them serve on a jury, and take it out on the plaintiff with the jury verdict. Others suggest that jurors wanting to get back to work might reach a quick verdict without engaging in a thoughtful deliberation, thus depriving the parties of the justice at the heart of the civil jury system.
The Times article interviews several potential jurors who made pleas to the judge to relieve them of jury duty because of the potential financial hardship of missing work for weeks, or even months, associated with a jury trial. Several judges expressed their sensitivity to the economic times, especially in jurisdictions hardest hit by the economic meltdown. Jury commissioners from several states have been forced to summon additional people to jury duty because of the increased number of “economic hardship claims.”
As noted above, this author has suggested several jury reforms to improve the experience for jurors. An additional reform to help jurors during this difficult financial time is to pay them more. However, as states struggle to meet their own budgets, this solution is not likely to come to fruition any time soon. To speak with a top Chicago personal injury trial lawyer, call Passen & Powell at (312) 527-4500 for a free consultation.