Do you tell the jury how much you want at the start of the trial or wait for argument?
Recently there was an email discussion among good plaintiff lawyer about whether you tell the jury how much you are asking in jury selection or wait until final argument. Some cited David Ball and said they tell the jury how much they are asking for and some said they are concerned about doing that. Here was my response.
It’s an important question and there is no solid agreement in spite of Ball’s suggestion. My approach is this. In a lot of cases there are question marks in your case both liability and damages with the result you don’t know how the evidence will go in. If you give them the "A" case number and your case is a "C" you can be hurt as to your credibility. This is particularly true in a C case because the jury is continually monitoring your evidence to see if it is worth what you said. In those case I use generalities which address "subtantial damages." I ask what they consider an excessive verdict. I talk about money in such a way to make sure they are prepared and the bad jurors surface.I follow Ball’s advice in opening regarding outlining economic loss and advising at end of trial I tell them how they can determine non economic.
In good liability cases with major damages I agree with Spence’s approach to start out in jury selection with a number, but that may be something other then a specific number For example "if after you’ve heard all the evidence, listened to the law and are convinced in the jury room a reasonable and fair verdict is more then $18 million dollars would you sign the verdict?" For example "if after you’ve heard all the evidence, listened to the law and are convinced in the jury room a reasonable and fair verdict is more then $18 million dollars would you sign the verdict?" You’d be surprised how often jurors are excused for cause on such a question. Or in a rare case I might say "At the end of this case after you have heard all the evidence and the law, we will suggest to you a reasonable and fair verdict is $40 million dollars? If you ageed that that was a reasonable and fair verdict would you sign a vedict for tha amount?
I believe there is no one rule that ought to be followed in every case, but I also believe it is important enough an issue to require a lot of thought and focus study.