Good job, Jury

There is an inherent conflict in the defense attorney. Generally, we understand that our role can be to dispose of litigation as cheaply as possible, whether or not the underlying claim has merit. However, when a case does go to trial, and the defense wins, there is a palpable sense of justice in the room. Many times it is the uncertainty of the jury trial that prods settlement. It behooves us all to remember what a fine device the jury is.

This is not to belittle Eleanor Madden, the septagenarian plaintiff who suffered injury when she fell off a stepstool similar to the one above. Madden v. Cosco, 2010 WL 2867899 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. July 19, 2010) (per curiam) is an appeal from a defense verdict. Ms. Madden was doing what all grandmotherly figures do around the holidays, making holiday gift packages that include some homemade jelly. Ms. Madden used the Cosco chair stepstool in an effort to reach the homemade jelly, which stayed on a shelf in her kitchen. She fell, and you can figure out the rest.

Ms. Madden’s attorney should have figured out that things were not going his way during voir dire:

During juror voir dire, one prospective juror stated that he thought “there are [too] many frivolous lawsuits.” The next juror interviewed stated that he agreed that “there is [sic] too many frivolous lawsuits and people sue-tend to sue a lot of times for just something-they did something stupid and now they want to make the corporation pay for it.”

The court declined to dismiss the potential jurors for cause, since they affirmed that they could be fair and impartial. Madden’s counsel struck them with a peremptory challenge. The trial took its course. Defense verdict for Cosco. On appeal, Madden’s counsel argued that the comments quoted above tainted the entire venire. Appeal denied. There was no evidence that the jurors decided the case in an unfair manner. Not to mention the fact that the evidence supported the jury verdict. Good job, jury.

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