There are over 800,000 registered voters in St. Louis County, so it is possible to live your entire life without being called for jury duty. A few years back I was served, and despite hearing ways to get out of doing it from anyone I mentioned this to, I was excited to do it.,
On the appointed day I reported to the court house where I almost didn’t make it through security. I’d heard potential jurors spend a lot of time waiting to be called for an actual jury, so I brought my latest needlepoint project with me. Unfortunately you can’t bring a scissors, even a child’s scissors, into the court house with you. My scissors, with the rounded tips, was confiscated. If you want to bring a needlework project with you carry dental floss, you can cut the thread just as you cut the floss, and no one will take it from you.
My next stop was a large auditorium style waiting room. The presiding judge came into thank us for taking the time to serve and explain the process of how we would spend the next few days. It was entirely possible to sit in that room for the entire time and never be selected for a jury. I hunkered down in my seat for what I expected to be a boring day, but I was called to be considered for the first jury of the day.
A lot of the cases jurors are asked to consider are personal injury caused by traffic accidents where the defendant is being represented by a lawyer provided by their insurance company. It was possible that I would never be selected because I had worked for an insurance company. That often results in immediate dismissal because the plaintiff’s attorney believes you will be biased in the insurance company’s favor.
Sure enough, the case was a personal injury case where an insurance company lawyer was representing the defendant. The plaintiff’s attorney did not ask us if we were working or had worked for an insurance company. He asked if any of us had or were currently working for the claims department of an insurance company. I worked in marketing, not claims, so I didn’t raise my hand. I was accepted as a juror.
The injured party was trying to prove that her Temporomandibular Joint(TMJ) was made worse by the accident. The defense position is that this was a pre-existing condition that was not caused by the minor (I don’t remember the exact amount but it was under $1000 in body damage to her car) accident. We listened to a half day of dry testimony, some of it on video, by her doctor, the defenses specialist, the defendant and finally the injured party herself. I had no idea what the others were thinking but I was wondering how this ever got to trial? The claimant had the condition before the accident, and it was not proven that it was any worse after the accident. Then it was time to deliberate.
With the exception of two very determined jurors we all felt the condition was present before the accident and there was no way to know if the accident had made it worse, or the claimant was just looking for a way to pay for the treatment. The two were very softhearted and wanted to give her the cost of her treatments and zillions of dollars for her pain and suffering, they seemed shocked that rest of us felt differently. After almost another half day of back and forth discussion and asking to review the expert’s testimony, which clearly showed conflicting points, we settled on giving her $1000. This seemed to appease the two people who didn’t want her to walk away empty handed.
Was our judgment correct? I don’t know. We simply made the decision based on the materials presented to us that day. While the case was mundane, it was important to the participants, and I was proud to be part of the process.