2017 was quite the year for attacks on and perceptions of “leading” public figures and institutions. In view of the new indictments by Mr. Mueller and other evenst, there are ample reasons to think 2018 will exceed 2017 as to attacks and perceptions of “leaders” and institutions. And, there also have been many arguments about and/or attacks on “science.” How are jurors reacting to these events? That’s a question I’ve been wondering about more and more as the molecular revolution brings more science into civil and criminal law cases, including mass tort cases.
Some jury consultants are publishing on these or related topics, and the results are notable. For example, juror consultant Melissa Gomez published a February 8, 2018 LAW360 “expert analysis article. The article needs to be read for all of its findings and conclusions. But highlighted below a couple of findings that especially caught my attention for purposes of thinking about mass tort claims involving products:
“The statistically significant change in opinions seems more related to a company’s direct impact on, and communications with, the public. Specifically, since 2017, about half (48 percent) of respondents agreed that companies lie to the public about their products’ safety. This is a statistically significant increase from the 31 percent who agreed to this perception in the prior years.
The most telling thing about the shift in attitudes is the message potential jurors want to send with their verdicts. While some core opinions may have remained somewhat stable, recent respondents are less willing to compromise, and they are more willing to use damage awards to voice their discontent with vigor. Specifically, since in 2017, 20 percent of respondents indicated that they believed that damage awards in lawsuits have gotten too high. This is a statistically significant decrease from the 28 percent who believed so in prior years. This data becomes even more compelling when we consider it next to the barrage of large verdicts in the news.” (footnote references omitted)