Understanding Juror Emotion: When Sympathy Can Backfire

, The Legal Intelligencer


In my experience with injury cases, I have seen an all-too-common error of plaintiffs counsel in jury trials. The error is an over-emphasis on sympathy in an effort to accelerate damages. I remember one such example of a horrible case involving the death of a child. For the first two days of trial, plaintiffs counsel put family member after family member on the stand, talking about the horrendous accident at issue in the case and its impact on the child’s family. By the end of those two days, everyone in the courtroom, especially the jurors, were emotionally drained. The problem for the plaintiff was that no one yet understood why this was the defendant’s fault. Sympathy for the plaintiff was high. The verdict was for the defense.

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