Episode #96 - The Problems with Juror Instructions

Dr. Bill Kanasky, Jr. & Dr. Steve Wood

Dr. Steve Wood and Dr. Bill Kanasky, Jr. talk about the problems with juror instructions. So many times, jurors don't understand them, don't pay attention to them, don't read them, are too long, etc. The biggest issues that jurors struggle with understanding are causation, burden of proof, negligence, past economic and non-economic damages, future economic and non-economic damages, and allocation of fault. 

To help jurors understand causation they must be educated and indoctrinated about causation beginning in jury selection, then repeating during opening and then again during closing so that by the time they get to deliberations, they have heard it a few times. For many jurors, burden of proof is confused with "beyond a reasonable doubt" due to their lack of understanding and what they have seen in TV shows and movies. Jurors don't understand the legal definition of negligence and is often just assumed to exist simply because there is a bad outcome. Jurors are very confused by past economic and non-economic damages and also by future earnings damages. Jurors do seem to get punitive damages and allocation of fault, for the most part, however, they tend to start their discussion around allocation of fault, which is not where they are instructed to start. The podcast wraps up with Bill and Steve answering viewer mail about witnesses responding with "it depends",  the pros and cons of blaming the plaintiff, and advantages of a mock trial with deliberations with fewer jurors vs. individual surveys of a much larger sample.