The Jury's In: An Epiphany - BodyShop Business

The Jury’s In: An Epiphany

After getting out of jury duty, I had a epiphany: I’m an idiot. Reasonable people like me and you) should serve on juries. If insurers didn’t pay out millions to attorneys and “victims,” maybe – just maybe – they wouldn’t nickel and dime shops so much.

Every now and then, all the bits and pieces of information subconsciously gathered by a person’s mind and soul during his life settle in just the right formation and something amazing happens. He suddenly gets it. He has an epiphany, an understanding, a sudden realization that makes him wonder why he never put it together before.

Something like this happened to me recently. It started a couple months ago when I received a jury duty notice in the mail – that one piece of mail most of us dread, a day away from the shop sitting in a courthouse for hours, with the possibility of having to sit there for days or weeks if chosen for the jury. It was only the second time in my 41 years that I’d gotten the notice, so I really can’t complain too much – but complaining is just so much fun sometimes that I made the most of the situation and whined enough to rival my techs.

When the day finally came for me to appear at the courthouse, I decided to have fun, do some reading and if I were lucky enough to get called to be questioned, harass the poor, unsuspecting lawyers. Wait till they got a load of me!

My morning started with Fraiser’s wife, Lilith, ordering us all into the orientation hall. This woman’s hair was pulled back so tight her eyes were little slits. She was so prim, proper and uptight that, while walking, the friction from her butt cheeks rubbing together caused enough static electricity to create sparks as her knees passed each other.
The woman read a long list of rules, played a few of old videos reminiscent of my sixth-grade sex education films – without the suspense – and then introduced a judge who lectured us on the wonders, thrills and obligations of our judicial system. Amazingly, I (the winner of my high school senior “Class Sleeper” award) managed to stay awake.

Shortly afterward, we were herded into a couple of elevators and led down the dark hallway and into the courtroom. It looked nothing like the courtrooms on TV. I was very disappointed.

The judge introduced himself, made a little speech about why we were there and told us a little about the case. It was a personal injury case due to a car accident. He then introduced two young, eager and nervous attorneys. The two attorneys took turns reading off a list of names that included their clients, their clients acquaintances, the attorneys friends, family neighbors and on and on. This is to ensure no one in the jury pool knows anyone who’s ever met anyone who knows the attorneys or their clients. This exercise eliminated at least half of the jury pool.

Those of us who survived the first elimination round were brought back to the orientation hall to wait our turn to be interviewed. Thankfully, I was the second person called.

Miss Electro-Butt ushered me into a very small room where the two lawyers were cozily waiting for me. Again, nothing like on TV where juror questioning is done in a courtroom.

The questioning began with the plaintiff’s attorney asking me to tell him a little about myself.

“Well, I run a body shop. Doesn’t that disqualify me? I deal with accidents every day, see cars destroyed while the people inside receive little or no injury. And I also get the gold diggers who come to me wearing a neck brace for an estimate on a scratched bumper.”

The defense attorney perked right up after he heard that. I was playing these guys. I knew how to get out of jury duty. Mamma didn’t raise no fool. All I had to do was show that I’m biased against people who think of a car accident as a winning lottery ticket.

You’d think that would’ve ended it for the plaintiff’s attorney. But he continued to question me for another 10 minutes. He kept pushing me on the question, “Could I put my personal beliefs aside and follow a judge’s instructions to apply only the law to my decision?” I said I didn’t know. It depended on the circumstances.

The defense attorney only asked me one question: Could I make a fair decision based on the evidence presented?

This was a question I could answer yes to. If the evidence showed the plaintiff as a gold-digger, I’d keep his attorney from collecting a paycheck that week.

I made my prejudices so blatant during the questioning that I thought for sure I’d be out of there in minutes. But, unbelievably, the defense attorney wanted me on the jury. The plaintiff’s attorney, however, presented a “challenge for cause,” asking the judge to dismiss me. The judge questioned me and decided that I couldn’t be on the jury. I was quite pleased with myself. I got out of jury duty again and had fun doing it.

A few weeks later, I was watching something on the news about highly skilled doctors specializing in risky surgery. They’re quitting their specialties and becoming general practitioners because they can no longer afford the malpractice insurance. Some of them had their premiums jump to almost $100,000 a year. Their premiums are going so high so fast because of the constant multi-million dollar jury awards for pain and suffering caused by doctors mistakes. I sat there fuming.

Most of my life, I’ve had a disdain for people who raped our legal system for money. Many times, it’s people who’ve never contributed anything to society. Something happens to them and they win millions. Like with Rodney King. Yeah, they beat the crap out of him, and he probably deserved some compensation. But the guy has been a parasite most of his life. You don’t give a loser like this millions of dollars. Jurors need perspective. A few thousand bucks would’ve been more money than he’s ever seen in his life.

Here in Connecticut, we fight with insurers over labor rates. I know that everywhere in the country the fight goes on. But the battle here is really heating up. On one hand, the insurers are constantly paying out millions in punitive compensation, while on the other hand, they’re fighting feverishly over a few dollars per hour on shop labor rates. To me, it didn’t make sense.
Then it hit me. Why shouldn’t they spend their energy nickel and diming body shops into ruin? We’re easy prey. We’re just a bunch of uneducated, grease monkey gearheads who call ourselves business people. And they’re right! Trial attorneys are a smart bunch of people. They aren’t as easy to muscle around. All they have to fight the trial attorneys with are other attorneys, who may or may not be smart enough to win.

In our defense, shop owners and managers are getting smarter all the time. And we’re starting to win some of the battles with insurance companies.

But this industry has miles to go before it begins to even approach the mental and financial resources of the trial attorneys. And as long as we’re the path of least resistance, the insurance companies will try to take advantage of us.

Because becoming an adversary equal to the trial attorneys is going to be so difficult, we need to help relieve some of the pressure exerted by the trial attorneys. If we can help to keep the cash flow to the lawyers in check, we might be able to divert some of it our way.

But we can’t blame just the attorneys. The juries are more to blame. It’s the jurors who grant these insane damage awards. Who are these fools? Who are these jurors who pay some idiot for spilling coffee on her lap? Who feels sorry enough for some drug-dealing, life-time criminal, societal leach to put him in a Mercedes and penthouse apartment because he got a long-deserved beating?

More important than the question, “Who are these jurors?” is “Who aren’t they?”

They aren’t you and me.

And there was my epiphany! Here I was, all proud of myself for not getting picked as a juror, when if I had been picked, I could’ve made a difference and helped stop this madness. All it takes is one juror to say no, and the gold digger gets nothing. Or if the plaintiff has a legitimate claim, that one juror can help to keep the damage award reasonable.

It’s we hardworking, reasonable-thinking people who are too busy to serve on a jury. It’s we who find a way to get dismissed. And it’s the nuts picked as jurors who are sucking the life out of this country.

Nationwide tort reform isn’t likely since we keep electing lawyers to congress. Very few lawyers are going to vote to limit their own income. A juror, however, has a tremendous amount of power. One juror can decide the fate of another person’s life or the fate of a huge corporation. We’re not taking advantage of our power. We’re putting the wrong people on juries by not participating. If we can’t get the laws changed, we can take over the law through jury nullification.

It’s happening more often now than ever. Juries are refusing to convict people who’ve been accused of breaking moronic laws. They’re ignoring the law and the judge’s instructions and doing what’s right and sensible. Juries can also take back control of the money flow.

It would’ve cost me two days of my time to sit on that jury a while back, but I could’ve made sure that an injured person received a reasonable award, or I could’ve sent a frivolous gold digger home empty-handed.
I’m not due to be called for jury duty for another three years. But the next time I do get called, I’m going to try to get on the jury. I’ll tell them what they want to hear. I’ll do this not because I dislike lawyers and accident victims. I don’t dislike either. I’ll do this because the courts need reasonable people on juries. They need people like me. They need people like you.

Think about it. If the insurance companies didn’t lose so much money to trial attorneys, maybe they wouldn’t be so stingy when it comes to paying for collision repair. Wishful thinking? Maybe. Maybe not.

All real, all stupid. Frivolous lawsuits – fueled by jurors who are sympathetic to “victims of their own stupidity” – are wreaking havoc on our legal system

A drunk climbs under a parked truck and passes out. When the inevitable happens (yep: squished), who’s responsible? According to a lawsuit filed by his mother, everybody – except, of course, him.

A man says he’s had heart attacks and gotten diabetes because he’s obese. Why is he obese? Because McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC didn’t tell him that he shouldn’t eat their food several times a week. He sues.

A teen throws herself off the Golden Gate Bridge. With no one logical to sue, the girl’s mother sues the bridge’s board of directors, claiming they violated the teen’s “constitutional right not to be deprived of life without due process of law.”

A Utah prison inmate sues the Utah Department of Corrections claiming the prison wasn’t letting him practice his religion: Druidic Vampire. To do that, he claims he must be allowed access to a “vampress.” In addition, the prison isn’t supplying his specific “vampiric dietary needs” (yes: blood). Records show the inmate was registered as a Catholic when he was imprisoned in 2000. The suit is thrown out.

The TV Show “60 Minutes” runs a segment on how a certain area of Mississippi has gone lawsuit crazy. Two jurors (Hint: See the case below) who were never named in the broadcast are offended and sue the show for $6 billion.

Three sisters sue their mother’s doctors and hospital after accompanying her to a minor medical procedure and witnessing doctors rushing her to emergency surgery. Rather than malpractice, their legal fight centers on the “negligent infliction of emotional distress” – not for causing distress to their mother, but for causing distress to them for having to see the doctors rushing to help their mother. The case is fought all the way to the California Supreme Court, which finally rules against the women.

A man confronts a burglar. Even though he has a shotgun, the burglar attacks him, so the man shoots him. The district attorney declares the shooting justified. End of case? No way! The burglar’s family sues the man – and wins.

A man works hard to woo his fourth wife. When his effort fails, he sues her to get back the expensive gifts he gave her.

Copyright 2002 StellaAwards.com. Used with permission.

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