May 27, 2020 Practice Point

The Demise of the Civil Jury Trial, Part II: Judicial Tinkering

When it comes to establishing an amount for loss of society, how are judges any more qualified than 12 jurors?

By Hon. Mark A. Drummond (Ret.)

In my last column, I wrote about a medical malpractice case involving the death of a little boy. The jury returned a verdict of $10 million in favor of the parents and his two siblings. The appellate majority of three, after ordering the parties to brief settlement negotiations and after “substantial collegial discussion,” decided to reduce the award to $3 million. The parents were also given the option of a new trial.

If the group is smarter than any one individual, why are jury trials disappearing?

If the group is smarter than any one individual, why are jury trials disappearing?

Credit: surachetsh via iStockphoto | Getty Images Plus

The majority opinion referenced Averroes’ Commentaries on Aristotle, the spire atop the Great Cathedral in Salisbury, England, Hamlet, and a footnote to Scientific American magazine. Two justices dissented. This column addresses those dissents.

Let’s begin with the spire. The majority noted that the spire is “exactly 3.2 feet off dead center in the direction of the southwest prevailing winds.” This adjustment has allowed the spire to survive for hundreds of years. The majority then wrote, “Greatness in architecture is not achieved by creating a good structure from superb materials; it is achieved by creating a superb structure from mediocre materials.”

Premium Content For:
  • Litigation Section
Join - Now