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Jury Selection in New York: Can I Ask Juror if They Ever Brought a Lawsuit?

The answer is yes, I can.
But the bigger question is WHY I would ask such a question or why my opponent would ask such a question.

I'll tell you why...

When we're picking a jury, I want to know about the experience and background of each potential juror. I need to know if there's something they've done during their lifetime that may cause this juror to lean in favor of one side or the other.

Do they have an affinity for doctors and hospital staff? 
Do they believe that doctors can do no wrong?
Or are they open to the possibility that a doctor may have violated the basic standards of good medical care?

"Have you ever brought a lawsuit before?"
"If so, what kind of case?"
"Was it a medical malpractice case?"
"Was it an accident case?"

"Did your case go to trial?"
"Did you settle your case?"
"What was the outcome of your case?"

"What type of injuries did you have when you brought your civil lawsuit?"

I ask these questions to find out WHY they brought a lawsuit.
To find out what they thought of the litigation process.
To learn whether they had to testify and whether they went to a verdict.

Did they have to appeal?

Let's say an injured patient sued their doctor and lost at trial.
They might be bitter that they lost.
They might be vengeful and want to take it out on the parties in this case.

Maybe just the opposite.
Maybe she thinks that her injuries are much worse than my client's injuries.
She only got "X" dollars for her injuries and now here we are asking for "100X" dollars for my clients' injuries.

She may be biased based only on her own experience and believing that her case is the standard by which all injury cases are judged.

On the other hand, she might have won her case either by settlement or verdict and may bend over backwards to give my client a verdict and as much money as possible.

I need to explore if they brought a lawsuit, who they sued and what injuries they suffered. I need to know what the outcome of their case was and if they were satisfied with the legal process. While it is true that we don't hook jurors up to lie detectors to see if they're telling the truth, we must rely on the spontaneous answers they give during jury selection to see if they are right for this type of case.

In case you didn't know, jury selection is NOT going into a room of potential jurors and deciding which jurors we want for our jury!

Instead, a better name would be jury DESELECTION.
Why?
Because once we learn about the different jurors, we have the ability to REMOVE those jurors we DON'T want on our jury. Whoever is left sitting there becomes a juror by default.

Interesting, if I don't ask jurors this question, my opponent will certainly ask because he will want to know the answers as well. That means I have to determine strategically if I can gain an advantage by asking these questions first, before my adversary asks these questions.

To learn more about what I can ask jurors during jury selection, I invite you to watch the quick video below...


Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer