Dateline: September, 2008, Issue 4

How do jurors treat plaintiffs who don't speak English?

Almost 20% of the U.S. population age 5 and older speak a language at home other than English.

Ewing and colleagues (2008) recently studied whether the language in which a plaintiff testifies influences the outcome in a personal injury trial. Jury verdicts from 223 vehicular accident cases from 1996-2007 were compared to determine if they exceeded, equaled, or were less than the last settlement offer before trial when plaintiffs testified either in Spanish or in English.

Testifying in a language other than English (in this case, Spanish) had a negative impact on obtaining a better outcome than was offered prior to a verdict being rendered. Hispanics testifying in Spanish were 15% less likely than English speakers to obtain a better jury trial verdict than the last settlement offer.

The researchers concluded that English-speaking Hispanic plaintiffs fare better at trial than their non-English speaking counterparts.

Source Ewing, B. T., Reyes III, A. L., & Wetherbe, J. C. (2008). Estimating the effect of non-English speaking Hispanic on personal injury jury trial outcomes. Texas Tech University, Rawls College of Business, ISQS Working Paper.