Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Winter 2008

Keywords

Jury innovations, Active jury reforms, Tort reforms, Civil juries, Jury decision-making

Disciplines

Civil Procedure | Courts | Torts

Abstract

The rallying cry of "tort reform" is frequently associated with changes to the civil justice system that restrict the civil jury or avoid it altogether. Tort reformers have praised United States Supreme Court rulings that have led to greater judicial control over the evidence, especially scientific evidence, which juries hear. Other reformers advocate bifurcation of trials to avoid the possibility of jurors being so negatively influenced by testimony about damages that it affects their liability judgments.

The tort system aims to compensate fairly and equitably those who are injured by others, and to do so in an efficient manner. Concerns about incompetence and bias on the part of juries have led to evidentiary and procedural rules that limit what juries can hear and do. But some of these rules have had a paradoxical effect, making it more difficult to cope with complex civil trials. This article argues in favor of a diametrically opposed type of tort reform, one that expands--rather than restricts--the scope of jury decision making. This article advocates the widespread implementation of active jury reforms. This article argues that such reforms will improve the quality of jury decision making in tort cases, which in turn should promote the ability of the tort jury to fulfill its multiple functions. Hence, the introduction of active jury techniques constitutes genuine tort reform.

Publication Citation

Published in: Roger Williams University Law Review, vol. 13, no. 1 (Winter 2008).