The Risks and Rewards of Jury Trials for Personal Injury Claims

When bringing a case in court, all parties to a personal injury dispute have the opportunity to request a trial by jury. This means that the plaintiff can initially request a jury, or, if he or she fails to do so, a defendant can request a jury trial as well. Determining whether a judge or jury is better suited to hear your case is a complicated question that requires a careful evaluation of many factors. While juries may be sympathetic to plaintiffs who have been seriously injured or faced significant trauma, they can also be a risky proposition, since it is not always clear what they will believe or where they will come out. Indeed, even in the best of cases, juries can be unpredictable when a plaintiff’s attorney is unable to skillfully deal with them.

A case out of the Sixth Circuit illustrates this point. In Applebaum v. Target, Lori Applebaum sued Target after she fell off a bike she purchased from the store that she alleged was not correctly repaired. According to Ms. Applebaum, she was looking for a very particular bike that was out of stock in her local Target store. She was instead directed to a different store, where she was told that they had a bike that had previously had brake problems but was completely repaired. Ms. Applebaum purchased that bike. On her first ride, while going down a hill, her brakes clamped down on her rear tire and locked, causing her to fall. Ms. Applebaum took the bike back to the Target store and allegedly gave it back to Target officials, telling them that it had caused her accident.

Target’s recollection of events was very different. It presented testimony at trial that Ms. Applebaum had simply called the store looking for her specific bike and was told they had the bike in stock. She then picked it up from the store as a new bike, and no mention was made by any employees of any repairs that had been completed. After the accident, Ms. Applebaum returned to the store to report the accident but took the bike back home with her.  Under either version of events, the bike ultimately disappeared and could not be found.

Ms. Applebaum alleged that Target was negligent in selling her the bike and sought damages for her injuries.  The jury heard her testimony and the testimony of eight other witnesses, including several Target employees. Ultimately, the jury determined that Target was not negligent and declined to award Ms. Applebaum any damages. She appealed.

On appeal, Ms. Applebaum argued that she should be granted a new trial because the weight of the evidence did not support the verdict against her. The Sixth Circuit declined to agree. It noted the significant deference that is given to juries when they weigh the evidence and reach their verdicts. If the evidence would support either of two versions of events, juries are entitled to decide which version they find more believable and therefore deserving of their support and verdict. Even when some evidence may weigh against a jury’s finding, the court held that it is a “rare occurrence” when it determines that the weight of the evidence is so heavily against a jury verdict as to require a new trial.  Accordingly, on this basis, Ms. Applebaum’s request was denied.

The best protection against the risks of a jury trial is to invest in an experienced and knowledgeable trial attorney. A good trial attorney can help you understand how to present your facts, how to persuade a jury about your story, and how to convince them of your legal arguments. While no personal injury case is ever perfect, a good personal injury attorney can lead the jury to understand that the weight of the evidence is indeed in your favor.

If you have recently been injured in an accident, experienced Tennessee motor vehicle collision attorney Eric Beasley is the skilled and effective advocate that you need in the courtroom.  For more information or to discuss the circumstances of your case, contact the Law Office of Eric Beasley today at 615-859-2223.

Related Blog Posts:

Preemption of Personal Injury Claims By ERISA, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, May 26, 2016

Am I Eligible to File a Personal Injury Claim?, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, March 10, 2016

The Complexities of Bringing Personal Injury Claims Against International Corporations in Tennessee, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog,  March 10, 2016