How COVID Complicates Jury Trials

by | Nov 20, 2020 | Insurance Defense

In complex legal disputes, mediation and arbitration may not be viable options, making it necessary to prepare for trial. Jury trials are stressful enough under normal circumstances. In the COVID era, they are exponentially more difficult.

How Are Juries Different Today?

Due to physical constraints and the risk of COVID-19 for older people and those with underlying health conditions, juries look different these days, as  this webinar explains in more detail. Right now, fewer people are responding when they receive a jury summons. In addition, judges are more likely to show leniency when prospective jurors claim economic hardship prevents them from serving. This affects the overall makeup of juries. In general, people willing to serve during the pandemic:

  • Strongly oppose social distancing 
  • Oppose stay-at-home orders
  • Are over 50 years of age
  • Earn $100K or more annually
  • Have a moderate level of trust in science
  • Are willing to abide by a jury summons

These traits can affect every aspect of a trial, from the selection of jury members to the way jurors deliberate.

How This Can Affect Your Case

Connecting with jurors is much more difficult under these bizarre circumstances. With in-person trials, social distancing and masks will make it harder to read subtle facial expressions and interactions between jurors. These psychological cues are key data points lawyers use to convince the jury and obtain a winning verdict. The same issue arises when jurors participate remotely, along with other unique challenges like technical glitches, at-home distractions, and more casual attitudes about the proceedings. As a result, parties should focus on clarifying arguments, prioritizing concise data, and presenting information using more compelling exhibits and sophisticated multi-media formats.

For parties that want to avoid trying their cases under such fraught circumstances, waiting for a vaccine or attempting to reach a settlement out of court may be more desirable options. Either way, consulting experienced trial counsel is especially critical at this time.