Here at Michaels & Smolak, on any given day, you are likely to find, on our attorneys’ desks, piles of dog-eared, highlighted, and marked-up volumes of the New York Jury Verdict Reporter. The Reporter summarizes jury verdicts on a weekly basis from around New York State. (Actually, this publication is now called “VerdictSearch“, but old-timers like me, and most New York personal injury lawyers, still call it the “Jury Verdict Reporter“.)
Why do we read it? To help us represent YOU in YOUR CASE. True, every case is different, including yours, so the New York Jury Verdict Reporter provides only limited guidance. Every case, including yours, has a unique set of facts, lawyers, and jury members. All of these variables can and do affect the result of a case. Therefore, in one sense, the result of a single case reported in the Jury Verdict Reporter literally tells us nothing about how your case will end up.
But if you keep reading the jury verdict reports week after week, as we do, certain patterns emerge that are very helpful to both predicting the result of, and guiding our handling of, your case. Here are five main lessons that come out of the jury verdict reporter:
- Venue matters. Upstate sucks for plaintiffs. Plaintiffs up here get low verdicts compared to Downstate plaintiffs who get generally 2 or 3 times as much. Upstate juries also tend to “no-cause” plaintiffs (find there is no liability at all) more often than Downstate juries. But even within Downstate and Upstate, there are important differences. For example, one of the “kings” of venues for plaintiffs in all of New York State is (fittingly) Kings County (a/k/a Brooklyn). Big verdicts abound there. But no place in New York — or perhaps on earth – tops the Bronx. The Bronx is a plaintiff’s paradise: Very large verdicts for even relatively small injuries, with liability findings even in very tough cases. In Upstate, the closest thing we have to the Bronx is Erie County (Buffalo area), and it’s really not comparable. Verdicts in Erie County seem to be twice as larger than in nearby rural counties, but still nowhere near as high as Downstate verdicts. The worst venues Upstate? Wayne (Lyons, Newark) and Yates (Penn Yan) counties are probably tied. I don’t think either has ever had a million dollar verdict. Thanks to the Jury Verdict Reporter, we know where to venue a case, and where not to. (We have the choice of placing the case either in the county where the plaintiff or the defendant resides.) We pick the venue that is better (or at least less bad) for our clients. That’s part of our job of zealously representing you.
- The type of injury matters. The type of injury is of course important. Plaintiffs who have visible injuries, or ones where there is objective, visible proof (a fractured bone visible on an x-ray) fair better than plaintiffs with “invisible” injuries, such as soft tissue (“whiplash”) or psychological injuries. The Jury Verdict Reporter shows us what juries generally give for certain types of injuries. This helps us decide what to ask for in settlement for certain injuries, and helps us decide when the offer is so low that we are better off taking our chances at trial.
- Slip-and-fall cases are tough. Time after time we read about slip-and-fall cases getting no-caused, especially Upstate. Same for trip-and-fall cases. Juries tend to buy into defendants’ arguments that people should just watch where they are walking, period. So we are very careful about what kinds of fall cases we take. We think we know when we have an “angle” that makes our case more palatable to the jury. We do better with these kinds of cases because of the Jury Verdict Reporter. The Reporter helps us see the “pitfalls” of those cases, and discover what works and what does not work with the jury.
- Medical Malpractice cases are tough: The Jury Verdict Reporter reports a lot of no-causes in this category, too. When we read successful or failed medical malpractice cases, we look carefully at the types of experts the plaintiff used, and their names. Medical malpractice cases are often a “battle of the experts”, so we keep track of what experts tend to “win” and “lose”. This helps us decide who to hire, and not hire, in your case.
- Settlements on the eve of trial are more and more common: The Jury Verdict Reporter seems to be reporting more and more settlements instead of verdicts. The cases reported settle at the courthouse, usually just before trial, but sometimes during trial. It didn’t use to be this way. In the old days, the Jury Verdict Reporter was full of actual verdicts. Now it is full mostly of courthouse settlements. The reported settlements show us what certain types of injuries are settling for. This helps guide our own settlement postures.
In sum, the New York Jury Verdict Reporter is an invaluable tool for a New York personal injury lawyer. I would go so far as to say that if your New York personal injury lawyer is not a subscriber and an avid reader of this publication, you should jump ship and go with a lawyer who reads it. (Me, for example!)
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.