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WHAT GOOD WILL THE MONEY DO?
I n the context of a jury trial, I hear this question frequently. Often asked by jurors during jury selection, it is always on someone’s mind, and it’s a fair inquiry. In all honesty, I still struggle with this question in order to give an honest and straightforward answer. Hopefully, I can do a decent job in this month’s column. So, what good will the money do for the injured victim? Sure, it will get the victim the care he or she needs and relieve some stress for them. But, really, what will it do for the chronically injured person? The one who suffers every day. The one who really doesn’t have a medical cure for their ailments. The one whose back is compromised. The one who cannot take three months off to recoup from a shoulder procedure. The one whose brain is permanently altered. How will a lump sum of cash help them? For starters, getting financial compensation is what the law says we do. There is no way to go back in time and prevent the pain the negligent harm-doer caused or make it magically go away. We do not live in an eye-for- an-eye world. The founders decided money would settle our differences, and we would settle disputes in a civil manner. See the Seventh Amendment; we have civil law. In our world, money has value. It may be the next most valuable item after your health, but some people are not comfortable with this idea. As a result, they may not be suited for jury service.
Others have little trouble appraising the value of a person’s damages. It all depends on the type of person. But the truth is if all we are looking for is money in our trials, we are destined to lose. The pursuit to obtain a fair and reasonable sum for your client is honorable. But there is still a verdict that comes with the money, a finding by the jury that one party was negligent and committed a preventable wrong which harmed another. There is still a verdict that says to the wrongdoer, “The community is holding you responsible,” a public safety announcement that says human beings will be honored for who they are and what they are capable of. Each person’s losses and damages will be evaluated uniquely, originally, and in a way that honors their life and experiences. No formula will be standardized to set damages because we all have different life experiences. We are all unique and should be treated that way. This validation, this recognition of the human being’s worth, is what the
money verdict represents. The money is not just a lump cash payment. If the trial is true and the harm is real, the money will be much more than just currency. It will be a reflection of what and who the community values. The money is a statement by the jury of what our communities care about. If the money is just for medical bills, what does that say about us? But, if the money is to show someone that they are an asset to this community, and the victim’s loss is a loss we all feel, the jury appraisal shows we recognize that. What does that say about us? A money verdict is much more than just dollars and cents. A money verdict is a public statement about what we value in our communities. It is the last place the people can fully and truly
have their voices heard. We should keep it that way.
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