Dateline: May, 2021, Issue 2

Which jurors are more likely to find against defendants in bad faith cases?

Juror demographic characteristics such as age, race, gender, marital status, income, education and number of children predict almost no variation in individual jurors' verdict preferences in either civil or criminal cases, across many years and studies, with only a few exceptions (see, for review, Campbell et al., 2020, and the sections on Juror Characteristics in OJRU Blawg).

One recently discovered exception to this almost uniform inability for juror demographics to predict verdicts in civil cases is the ability of parental status to predict liability (but not damage awards) in a bad faith insurance case.

Campbell et al. (2020) presented 651 mock jurors a bad faith case involving an insurer and claims that the insured acted improperly. Mock jurors were presented a neutral statement of the case (factual background), opening statements, direct questioning of witnesses and closing arguments. The plaintiff alleged that, after a car accident, her insurance company did not pay her the amount owed and acted in bad faith. The defense argued that the plaintiff's attorney failed to cooperate in order to create a bad faith claim. The mock jurors then reported the verdict they favored and what financial damages, if any, they would award to the plainiff. Extensive background, demographic and attitudinal data were collected from the mock jurors.

Age, gender, race, marital status, income and education were unable to predict either liability decisions or damage awards.

The only significant predictor of verdicts in this bad faith case was that of the parental status of the juror. Being a parent made mock jurors significantly more likely (76%) to find the defendant liable than not being a parent (66%). Parental status had no influence on damage awards.

With the exception of parental status on liability decisions, juror demographics are unable to predict verdicts in a bad faith case.

Source Campbell, J., Salerno, J.M., Phalen, H., Bean, S., Hans, V.P., ross, L. & Spivack, D. (2020). An empirical examination of civil voir dire: Implications for meeting constitutional guarantees and suggested best practices. University of Denver Legal Studies Research Paper, No 20-11.