In his recent editorial contribution to The Legal Intelligencer, Anapol Weiss Associate Joshua C. Cohan discusses what legal counsel should be aware of when courts reopen from the coronavirus pandemic. In his article How the Pandemic Could Change Jurors’ Attitudes and Biases, Cohan argues that juror opinion will likely shift as a result of the global crisis, and this is a shift attorneys need to plan for when litigating cases.
“Prospective jurors, like all of us, have been impacted by COVID-19 and this impact is likely to affect their thinking and decision making when evaluating cases,” Cohan states. “New biases and attitudes will shape verdicts and deliver outcomes in cases that may be different than what we would have expected before the pandemic.”
Potential juror biases to arise post-COVID-19
Cohan goes on to explain how personal experiences are the strongest indicator of juror bias. These personal experiences include whether or not a jury member personally knew someone who fell ill to the virus, if their work or the work of a loved one was impacted, and how their finances may have been impacted. Other biases include a jurors’ reticence to leave their home during these unprecedented times and if they feel resentful about honoring a jury summons and being in proximity to strangers.
Cohan interviewed several attorneys for his article and presents their professional points of view. One perspective raised is how medical malpractice cases will be impacted post-coronavirus. Healthcare workers are lauded as heroes more so now than ever, and thus a lawsuit against a healthcare establishment will face stronger scrutiny and perhaps bias from juries.
Another point of interest raised is how damages awards may be impacted. Common sense may suggest they would diminish, but historical data from economic downturns suggests the opposite. Juries actually awarded the same or more significant monetary damages during times of hardship.
Recommendations for legal counsel
Cohan concludes by suggesting that jury selection will have to reflect our new reality. Voir dire questions will need to explore potential juror’s experiences during and post coronavirus, including their economic health and their views on the government.
Joshua C. Cohan is an associate at Anapol Weiss and concentrates his practice on environmental and toxic mass torts. He is a member of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association, where he has served on the Future Leaders Committee. He is also a member of the American Association for Justice. Joshua has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Best Lawyer. The National Trial Lawyers Association recently named Joshua a Top 40 Under 40 Lawyer in Pennsylvania. He is licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.