You brought a lawsuit.
Here in New York.
Against your doctor.
You claim he was careless.
Causing you significant harm and injury.
The defense doesn't see it that way.
They claim they did nothing wrong.
They claim that your doctor did nothing to cause your injury.
Besides, they also claim that you are responsible for your own injuries.
To make matters worse, they also say that your injuries aren't as bad as you claim.
The defense attorney has made it clear this is a “no pay” case.
They have no intention of ever negotiating.
They have no intention of ever trying to settle this case.
Instead, they have indicated they will go to trial and take a verdict on your case.
Two years after you started your lawsuit, your case finally comes up for trial.
The judge tells your attorney to go pick a jury.
The goal during jury selection is to pick six people from the community who tell us they can be fair and impartial.
Six people who have been summoned to court to appear for jury duty.
Six people whose lives have been disrupted so they can come and resolve your legal dispute.
Six people who know nothing about the details of your case.
Six people in the community who are going to decide whether you are more likely right than wrong.
Six people who are supposed to decide who is entitled to a verdict in their favor regardless of who it helps or who it hurts.
Six people who are not supposed to talk about the case until the judge gives them the law.
These people will have to answer a series of questions, known as jury interrogatories, in order to reach their verdict.
They will have to decide whether your doctor was careless.
If he was not, your case is over.
That means you get no money as compensation for the injury you suffered.
This jury will have to decide whether your doctor was careless.
If he was, the jury then has to decide whether his carelessness was a cause of your injury.
If not, your case is over.
That means you get no money for your injury.
On the other hand, if the jury determines that your doctor's carelessness was a cause of your injury, then they are required to answer questions about how much money you will receive.
Jury selection is an opportunity for the attorneys to get to know who these jurors are.
Where do they come from?
What is their educational background?
What strong beliefs do they have about the judicial system?
Have they ever been litigants before?
Have they ever been jurors before?
Do they have strong feelings about people who bring lawsuits?
Do these jurors understand that they don't have to sit there for weeks trying to make 100% certain that what we are claiming is true?
Instead, we only have to show that we are slightly more likely right then wrong in order to justify a verdict in our favor.
We want to make sure that these jurors will follow the judge's instructions on the law and not take matters into their own hands.
In a medical malpractice trial in New York, only five out of six jurors are required to answer a question in order to move on to the next question.
The jurors do not have to be unanimous in their decision.
One of the first questions we ask potential jurors is “Do you know any of the litigants?"
Why would we ask such a question?
Think about it...
Let's say your neighbor is called for jury duty and happens to be called into your case.
Let's say you have a good relationship with your neighbor.
You socialize with your neighbor.
Do you think this person would be favorable to you if he were to sit as a juror on your case?
The answer is obvious.
Of course he would.
You think that would be fair for the defense?
Of course not.
Naturally, you and your attorney would love to have six people who know you and were highly favorable to you.
On the other hand, imagine that a current patient of your doctor was called for jury duty.
He was randomly assigned to your case for jury selection.
It turns out that this patient absolutely loves your doctor.
He saved his life.
He's helped his family tremendously.
He would do anything for your doctor.
Do you think this current patient would be favorable to you?
He would most definitely favor the doctor.
He would bend over backwards to help your doctor.
There is no possible way he could envision that your doctor was careless.
You would think that if one of these potential jurors knew you or your doctor, they would automatically disqualify themselves from your case.
You would think that they would immediately recognize the unfairness to the other side if they knew one of the parties to the lawsuit.
Some do not.
Those that do not think that they can be fair and impartial to the other side.
Reading this article, you get a sense of unfairness when one person knows a litigant.
In that instance, we have to ask this juror whether it might be better for him to return back to central jury in order to get selected on a different case.
Some people will readily acknowledge it would be better.
Others will not.
In that instance, we need to speak to the judge who oversees jury selection.
We would have to make a legal argument to the Judge and explain why this person would be inherently unfair if he were to sit as a juror on your case.
We are not talking about his strongly held beliefs.
Nor are we talking about his religious beliefs.
Nor are we talking about his personal beliefs about the legal system.
Instead, were simply bringing up the issue that he knows one of the people involved in your lawsuit.
If we can convince the judge that this juror would be inherently biased in favor of the person he knows, then the judge should have no problem excusing this juror and allow us to put another juror in his place.