The key to getting full value verdicts is getting jurors who believe in the process. Here are a series of voir dire questions designed to find out how people feel about this process and to identify those who are biased against it. There are several topics covered. You can pick and choose which to use.
The Assessing Process in General
We’ve all heard sayings about the value of health, such as “Good health is true wealth”, or Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous”. Before I ask about your feelings on valuing the loss of health, let’s talk about the valuation process in general.
Most people are familiar with the process of assessing or appraising the value in dollars of material things when they are taken or lost. Some material things have tremendous value, others have much less value. If it wasn’t worth much to start with, then the dollar value will be small. If it was worth a great deal, then the dollar value will be great. When the pre-loss value is great, we don’t lower the dollar amount after the loss occurs just because it sounds like a lot of money; we value it fairly and fully, period.
In a case where permanent injuries are proven, jurors are not valuing material things, they are valuing human things; they are valuing health; they are valuing the impact on enjoyment or quality of life when a part of health is taken and replaced with pain and with suffering that does not go away. While the things to be valued involve human losses, not material losses, the process remains the same.
It’s not about getting even or punishing. It’s about respecting and recognizing the full value of what was taken in the way of health. If it’s gone and not coming back, then the assessment must include the losses over the rest of that person’s life, which can add up to a lot of money. It’s not about how much the person is going to get, it’s about how much was taken, what’s a value for what was lost in the way of health.
Having said that, some folks can’t get completely behind that process when it is applied to human losses. They are okay up to a point, but if the loss adds up to a lot of money over a long period of time, they reach a point where other considerations come into play, such as: feelings against large verdicts, sympathy for defendants, personal beliefs. Others have no such hesitations or feelings against the process when applied to human losses like pain and suffering. How do you feel about that?
Pain as Part of the Assessment Process
Let’s talk about how pain over the course of time fits into this valuation process. Having body parts that work without being a constant source of pain is a form of health. Some injuries can take that part of a person’s health away and replace it with pain that doesn’t go away for the rest of the person’s life. How do you feel about valuing that kind of loss?
Time as Part of the Assessment Process
Another factor to be considered in assessing the full and fair value of what was taken in the way of health is the length of time over which the loss will occur. If the loss only lasts for a short period of time, so the amount of health taken doesn’t add up to much, then the dollar amount set by the verdict should reflect a smaller amount.
If the loss lasts for a long period of time and the amount of health taken adds up to a lot over that time, then the dollar amount set by the verdict should reflect the magnitude of what was and will be taken. How do you fell about factoring in time when assessing the full and fair value of what was taken in the way of health?
It’s Not About How Much the Person is Going to Get
An essential part of this appraisal process is the fact it’s not about how much the person is going to get, it’s about how much was taken, what’s a fair and full value for what was lost in the way of health?
How do you feel when you hear, “it’s not about how much the person is going to get, it’s about how much was taken, what’s a fair and full value for what was lost in the way of health”?
The Worth of Health Has Nothing To Do With a Person’s Net Worth
How many of you think the value of a person’s health is worth more if the person has a big bank account and drives a fancy car; or a person’s health is worth less if they don’t live in a mansion? When it’s put that way, the answer is obvious. Why? Because the worth of health has nothing to do with a person’s net worth.
However, that fundamental truth can get lost during deliberations when the valuation process takes place. Sometimes jurors will start factoring in financial circumstances of the injured party when assessing the value of health measured over a lifetime. It may come up this way, “that’s more money than so and so makes over x amount of time”.
How many of you feel that could happen with you, in spite of your best efforts? [For those that raise their hand, establish a cause challenge]
[To everyone who doesn’t raise their hand ask:]
Can you assure us 100% that won’t happen with you, no way, no how?