Dateline: March, 2007, Issue 2

How do juror demographics and attitudes affect verdicts in personal injury cases against corporate defendants?

Overland (2003) examined whether plaintiff-oriented and defense-oriented jurors in personal injury cases against corporate defendants can be distinguished from each other based on their demographics and attitudes. Overland's research examines data from over 2,600 jurors in mock trials conducted around the country in preparation of actual personal injury trials involving either automobile defects or prescription medicine side effects.

Demographic characteristics helped identify plaintiff jurors, though (a) inconsistently across the automobile defect and prescription medicine cases, and (b) less so than jurors' attitudes. Who was demographically more likely to find for the plaintiff?

Jurors' attitudes more consistently and significantly predicted their verdicts for both types of personal injury cases studied (auto, drug). Which attitudes identified jurors more likely to find for the plaintiff?

In this research, the most plaintiff-oriented type of person was an African-American woman in the lowest income and education categories, politically liberal, suspicious of big business, and believing current lawsuit filings and damage awards are not excessive. This type of person had a 94% chance of finding for the plaintiff.

A white female who was "moderate" or "average" in income, education, political leanings, beliefs toward tort reform/lawsuits, and attitudes about corporations had a 48% chance of finding for the plaintiff in the cases studied.

The most defense-oriented person was a white male, in the highest income and education categories, politically conservative, not supporting further government regulation of corporations, and believing strongly in tort reform. This type of person had only a 3% chance of finding for the plaintiff.

The researcher concluded that the civil jury serves as an avenue for the expression of popular opinion in the form of verdicts in personal injury cases.

Source Overland, S. G. (2003). Re-examining the links between juror characteristics and civil court verdicts: New data, improved models and their implications for American politics. Paper presented at the Mid-West Political Science Association Conference.