Monday, December 8, 2008

Jurors’ Desire to Improve Things

One of the ways people make decisions when faced with a number of options is to translate each option into how they will feel emotionally about whatever the anticipated result is. The option that yields the best anticipated emotional outcome is more likely to be chosen.

For example, improving safety is a moral action. Attempting to get companies to improve safety with big verdicts feels good. The thinking goes roughly like this: “If we can’t make them care about safety because it’s the right thing to do, maybe we can make them care about safety because it’s the more profitable thing to do.” Being virtuous, on the side of what is right for the common or greater good, makes it easier for jurors to justify huge verdicts. People can feel good about themselves making such a decision.

Plaintiff’s counsel can use the above to help get the desired outcome. Defense counsel can use an understanding of the above to considerably weaken such an argument by pointing out all through the case, the many ways in which the company attends to safety.

There are two sides to every coin . . .


Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D., is a trial consultant who provides trial/jury strategy, witness preparation and focus groups for attorneys. She is the author of the booklet, "101 Winning Tips: How to Give a Good Deposition and Testify Well in Court." E-mail:,

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