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Elephants and Idiots in the Courtroom

Published February 9, 2018 by Bruce Millar
Elephants and Idiots in the Courtroom

Automobile insurance is a fact of life. Each of us knows that we must carry auto insurance in order to operate a vehicle. Since 1974, drivers in Georgia have understood that such coverage is required by law. Why then, we wonder, do trial lawyers who represent insurance companies insist upon pretending there is no insurance ( No “Elephant”) in the courtroom?

The answer is simple. Insurance company lawyers fear that IF the jury recognizes that there is a big corporate insurance company working to deny a plaintiff the damages rightfully due them, the awards might be bigger.

We prefer to take the position of the late Judge Hall, who once opined: “Any juror who doesn’t know that there is liability insurance in the case [of a motor vehicle collision] by this time should probably be excused by virtue of the fact that he or she is an idiot.”

Spine Injuries from a Motor Vehicle Accident – Smith v. Crump 223 Ga. App. 52, (1996)

Following an automobile accident in which a woman suffered serious permanent injuries to her spine, a civil case was filed seeking damages; Smith v. Crump 223 Ga. App. 52, (1996). Lawyers for the defense asked the judge to prohibit questions during the qualification of the jury that might eliminate potential jurors who were affiliated with the insurance company in the case.

A potential juror’s involvement with the defendant insurance company might cause him/her to treat the facts of the case differently. This would be particularly true if, as an employee or a stockholder in the insurance company, their verdict might cause their own income to be adversely affected.

Can a Jury Be Impartial in a Motor Vehicle Accident Lawsuit?

This question is not a new one in courtrooms. Even Georgia’s Supreme Court has been asked to weigh this matter. That court held that:” “a bona fide effort to preserve the right of trial by an impartial jury” mandates such qualification, notwithstanding any resulting harm.”

The trial court, allowed such qualifications in this case believing that they were appropriate. The resulting appeal was, in part, brought because the defense asserted that the original verdict was based upon, “…passion, undue bias, gross mistakes, and prejudice.” (See paragraph #2 above.) The appellate court ruled that there had been no improper arguments or prejudicial evidence allowed that would excite and/or prejudice the jury.

An Excessive Compensation for a Low Wage Worker?

Finally, the insurance company balked at the amount of the verdict, $1,050,597.00 which was, according to them, “excessive.”

The woman injured in this case was a 38-year-old woman whose work was housekeeping. For that work she earned $4.25 per hour. She was undereducated and could, therefore, not hope to find other jobs. Furthermore, her injuries would continue to cause trouble for her for the duration of her life. That mix of misery included ongoing chronic depression, sleeping problems, and limited mobility issues. Her injuries had already cost the woman over $36,000 in medical bills.

This “enlightened jury,” after reviewing the facts in the case entered the award as noted above. Georgia law offers no yardstick with which the jury can measure the worth of a human life. Each jury must weigh the case individually. Given the life history of the plaintiff in this case, it’s possible the defense thought this minimum-wage earner was not worthy of the verdict. The appellate court saw it differently.

The appellate court, upon review, found the verdict NOT to be extravagant, shocking, or outrageous. That court declined to overturn the judgment of an enlightened jury. Once again, we see that Georgia law stands solidly on the side of fairness, equality, and a level playing field.

Injury Consultations by The Millar Law Firm

Before you conclude that your personal injury case cannot be won, or is worth less than the trouble of going to court, consult with the attorneys at The Millar Law firm, LLC. We are dedicated to the practice of personal injury law. We only take cases that allow us to fight for the rights of those who have been injured through the negligence of others. Before you throw your case into the rubbish heap, allow us to review your case. We will evaluate the facts and help you to know what, if anything can be done to bring your case into the light of Georgia justice.

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