We’ve twice previously (here and here) posted ideas for research that we just didn’t have time to pursue. And we know that someone picked up on at least one of those thoughts and completed the project.
We have another idea. (That’s three ideas in a year; we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves.)
So take our third thesis — please!
It strikes us that the plaintiffs in pharmaceutical product liability cases are always striking the educated jurors. Surely that suspicion can be tested empirically.
To our eye, here’s what happens in our cases: The court calls in 70 or 80 folks as the jury pool. The judge then says that the trial will last three or four weeks, and asks if that would pose a hardship for anyone. At that point, we lose most of the jurors we’d like. The doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and Ph.D.’s all say that they can’t leave their jobs for a month, and the judge excuses them. We’re left with retirees, the unemployed, and union members, which, in a complex case, is a venire that often favors the plaintiffs.
But here’s what really frosts us: If we’re lucky enough to have one health care professional — who we’d love to keep on the jury — survive the preliminary screening, then the plaintiff inevitably strikes that person. Our sense is that plaintiffs typically prefer less-educated juries, and, in particular, routinely strike health care professionals from serving on juries in pharmaceutical and medical device product liability cases.
But why trust our anecdotal experience?
Surely some scholar could identify a cross-section of drug and device product liability cases and then examine court records to see if we’re right. A motivated academic could check empirically to see whether plaintiffs’ counsel systematically strike educated (or health-care-educated) jurors more often than defendants do.
If that’s true, wouldn’t it tell us something about the jury system?
We’re not saying that more educated people are smarter than less educated people; Lord knows, we’ve met people with little formal education, but remarkable street smarts.
As a general rule, however, if you’d like a jury to decide scientific issues correctly, wouldn’t you prefer to have scientifically knowledgeable decision-makers?
If plaintiffs are routinely dumbing down juries, wouldn’t that tell us something about which side is pursuing truth and which side is playing on emotions and trying to avoid the scientifically correct result?
To date, we have only our strong sense that plaintiffs’ counsel in our cases regularly strike the best-educated jurors. But we’d sure be interested to see our suspicion put to the test, so we’d know the empirical answer to that question.
If the idea grabs anyone, then take our thesis — please!
We only ask that, when you publish the results, you tell us what you’ve learned.