Yesterday we once again witnessed the power of a jury to settle a civil case by doing nothing more than showing up. We were hired on a case that had drug on for far to long and neither side had truly worked to resolve the case as both sides had drawn lines in the sands, so to speak. However those lines began to blow away as the day of reckoning had finally arrived and there was no more options left but to take the case to trial. We started the morning off with a -0- offer from the defendant and a $500,000 demand from the plaintiff.
Upon arriving to the court at just before 9AM all parties were informed that we would not get a jury panel until sometime after 11AM. The Judge decided that these two hours would provide the perfect opportunity to handle the remaining pre-trial issues. As often happens in pre-trial, some of the rulings were good for the plaintiff and others were good for the defense but it soon became obvious that both sides were going to have challenges in presenting there case to the jury based on the rulings. It was in this moment that the reality of having to allow 12 strangers to decide the fate of the case that both sides decided to try and reach some form of compromise.
As the time wore on through the morning the reality of trying the case began to set in on the parties involved in the case. It was in this setting that the plaintiff began to think that maybe demanding a little less money was better than getting nothing from a jury and the defendant began to think that paying something to settle the case was better than getting hammered by a large jury verdict. It is at this point in the morning, just before lunch that the Judge announces that the panel is ready and the deputy is going to get jury at the jury assembly area.
To say the threat of a jury trial acted as grease to free up the wheels of settlement would be an understatement. The threat of a jury trial acted as a racing engine to drive the case to settlement. Multiple offers went back and forth as we waited for the jury to arrive. The courtroom had erupted into a buzz of activity as lawyers and parties bustled about attempting to resolve the case before the jury arrived. The bailiff then walks into the courtroom to announce that he has a jury and they are ready to go. Suddenly the courtroom became quiet as the Judge took his seat at the bench.
At this very moment both sides realized they had too much to lose to let 12 strangers decide the fate of there case. In a last ditch effort to settle the case the plaintiff reduced their demand and the defendant raised their offer. The Judge waited anguishly to see if the parties would finally be able to reach an agreement. With no fan fare what soever the defense attorney annouces to the court that the parties had reached an agreement and that they would like to make a record of the agreement before dismissing the jury.
The Jury had once again assisted in seeing justice was served for both parties by doing nothing more than showing up for Jury duty. Without 12 individuals ready, able and willing to hear the evidence in this case and reach a verdict this case would have never settled. Both parties were too committed to their point of view, their belief of what the facts of the case were going to prove but neither side was willing to take the chance on 12 jurors and the case was settled. This is the power that a jury holds over parties in litigation to motivate them to settle.