October’s Chicago Lawyer contains excerpts from an interview with John L. Kirkton, the editor of the Jury Verdict Reporter for the last 17 years.
One great myth debunked by Mr. Kirkton is the theory that jurors give more around Christmas. Lawyers are always looking to schedule trials around Christmas and defense lawyers always try to avoid civil jury trials in December because they think the spirit of giving leads to more sympathetic jurors. The theory makes some anecdotal sense. Everyone seems to have just a little extra love in their hearts during the holidays.
Jury Verdict Reporter looked at reported December trials over the last four years in Cook County, Illinois, and found that the plaintiff won between 47 and 50 percent of the time. For December trials, the plaintiffs’ success rate dropped to 44%.
I doubt Christmas has the scrooge effect with jurors; my guess is that the difference between December and the rest of the year in this survey was just a mild statistical anomaly. The study did not look at the size of the awards in December, but my guess is they would get the same results: no difference.
The lesson of this study is that juries are trying to make the right call year-round and the joy of the Christmas season does not alter their efforts. So lawyers on both sides should just schedule their trials whenever the lawyers and the witnesses are available because there does not appear to be a Christmas verdict bump.