I recently posted a blog entitled “Why Upstate New York Verdicts Are Much Smaller than Downstate” . I explained that New York City juries tended to be more generous than upstate juries because big-city dwellers generally tend to be “socially” oriented while rural people are more “self-sufficiency” oriented.
One thing I did not mention in that post is that, even within upstate, the size of a personal injury or medical malpractice verdict tends to vary between counties. Let’s just take, for example, the counties where Michaels & Smolak tries most its cases. I have attempted to list them here in order from biggest-verdict counties to smallest-verdict counties:
Erie County, Monroe County, Onondaga County, Ontario County, Oswego County, Cayuga County, Seneca County, Wayne County, Yates County.
As shown above, a personal injury or medical malpractice victim is best off in Erie County. Juries there, by upstate New York standards, are very generous. In my view, the average Erie County verdict is about twice that of most other upstate New York county verdicts. Why? Well, Erie County contains Buffalo, a big blue-collar city. As I explained in my previous blog post, this makes for a more generous jury. The juries’ message there, stated in dollar terms, tends to be, “defendant, you really injured this poor plaintiff, so pay up in full for everything he has been through”. This explains why Monroe County and Onondaga County are also high on the above list; they contain the cities of Rochester and Syracuse, and juries there, as in most cities, tend to give more pain and suffering compensation than rural juries.
But a personal injury or medical malpractice plaintiff will generally fair far worse in Wayne or Yates County. Juries there tend to be exceedingly “tight” with their personal injury and medical malpractice verdicts. Those are very rural counties, so juries there tend to have the “self-sufficiency” mindset. Their message to the injured plaintiff, stated in dollar terms, seems to be, “plaintiff, stop your whining, get on with your life, and, by the way, we don’t believe in compensating pain and suffering with money”.
How do we choose what county to “venue” (place) a case in? Well, the law requires that we venue the lawsuit in a county where at least one of the parties resides. If both the plaintiff and the defendant reside in the same county, then we have no choice. But sometimes we have a choice. For example, if the plaintiff resides in Yates County, but the defendant resides in Erie County, we can choose to “venue” the case in either of those two counties. Given what I said before about the difference between a typical Yates County verdict and an Erie County verdict, that would be a no-brainer!
One last point: Sometimes, especially if either the defendant or the plaintiff is from out of state, we can choose to venue the case in Federal Court, instead of State Court, which will usually put the trial in a bigger city such as Rochester or Syracuse.
The tendency of juries in certain counties to give big or small verdicts is not the ONLY thing we consider when deciding where to venue our cases, but it certainly is, for obvious reasons, a BIG consideration.