Saturday, July 25, 2015
I took the high road
Which, according to the City of Chicago, made me an acceptable juror. The lucky individuals who weren't impaneled were the ones who said they hated potholes and had elaborate, gruesome stories about the damage done to their cars.
The case I got was a woman who sued the city because she fell in a pothole and messed up her knee. She requested $17,000 for medical bills, pain and suffering and loss of ordinary use. We awarded her just over $9,000. As a jury, we felt that her accident was more than half the City's fault, since the law states that maintaining the roads is their responsibility. On the other hand, $17,000 was steep and "loss of ordinary use" felt to me as though she was gilding the lily. She didn't lose her leg, after all.
I feel good about the verdict, the award, and our ability to reach consensus. But I hated jury duty.
Too many people (12 jurors, 2 alternates and, at times, a sheriff's deputy) in one small room while we waited for court to begin and while we deliberated. And some people are such assholes.
The judge told us not to consider the woman's health insurance. It was in writing, too, in the jury instructions. Insurance is a private contract and has no bearing on whether or not the City was responsible for the woman's injuries.
So what's the first question that comes up? "I wonder how much her insurance paid ..." The man who asked made it clear he thought she was "double dipping."
"We're not supposed to consider that," I said.
"I think it's important and so I'm putting it out there."
"And I'm batting it back because the judge said we're not supposed to consider it."
Good, Gal. You just caused tension in this tiny room. I didn't want to, but I couldn't help it.
He also wanted us to do this "in a hurry" so we could "get out of there." After all, we jurors had trains to catch and this wasn't "that big a deal, anyway."
I countered that I was going to take my time. I pointed out that it was a big deal -- this case had taken two years to come to trial -- to the plaintiff. And I reminded him I'd taken an oath. One of the other female jurors actually said, "amen," and that's when I saw I was speaking for the women in the room. Here I was afraid I'd made the high road so high that I would get a nosebleed, and it turned out I was doing something important.
But it took me days to shake how angry I was at that man, my fellow juror. At least I know I'll never have to see him again. (Though actually, I might. He happens to work at the hospital just up the street, the one where I go to get my annual mammogram.)