'Shouldn't We Consider . . . ?' Jury Discussions of Forbidden Topics and Effects on Damage Awards
Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 14, pp. 194-222, 2008
29 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2011
Date Written: February 18, 2011
The Federal Rules of Evidence prohibit disclosure to civil jurors of information that is arguably related to their decision-making (e.g., that either party is insured). The basis for so-called "blindfolding" is that a jury might be biased by this information to alter its appraisal of the evidence to reach a desired verdict. The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which mock juries in an automobile negligence case discuss several "silent factors" during deliberation (viz., insurance carried by the parties, the payment of attorneys' fees, and previous settlements between the plaintiff and other defendants) and the effects of such discussion on their compensatory damage award. We presented summaries of the evidence that varied in the severity of the plaintiff's injuries and the reprehensibility of the defendant's conduct. These variables influenced judgments of liability and damage awards. Analysis of the content of jury deliberations regarding damages showed that, although nearly all juries talked about silent factors, the size of their damage awards was unrelated to the frequency of these discussions and that such discussion accounted for only a very small portion of the variance in awards.
Keywords: law, jury discussions, public policy, forbidden topics, civil trials, damage awards, silent factors
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