Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1989


Corporate responsibility, Corporate wrongdoing, Business liability, Jury competence in business cases, Chicago Jury Project, Jury decisionmaking in business and corporate cases, Deep pockets effect, Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Jury anticorporate bias


Business Organizations Law | Litigation | Torts


Some of the most vociferous criticisms of the jury relate to its performance in cases involving business and corporate wrongdoing. The jury's competence in such cases is assaulted on a variety of fronts. Critics question the jury's factfinding ability in cases with business and corporate parties, and doubt whether lay jurors can understand the often complex and esoteric evidence of business wrongdoing. Others claim that bias and prejudice, rather than evidence, determine jury decisions about businesses and corporations. The presumed biases cut both ways. The generally positive regard in which the public holds business is credited with creating leniency toward business wrongdoing. In contrast, other critics perceive harsh treatment for businesses in cases that pit corporations against individual litigants.

Jurors' knowledge of and experiences with business, their understanding of business transactions, and their beliefs about the responsibilities of corporations in contemporary society may all play a role in their determination of liability and damages in specific trials. Yet to date there have been few systematic analyses of how jurors decide cases involving businesses and corporations.

This article begins to develop a comprehensive account of jury decisionmaking in such cases. It starts by showing that suits involving businesses and corporations form an increasing part of the contemporary jury's caseload, and thus deserve systematic scrutiny and investigation. The issue of jury competence in business cases is best addressed by analyzing existing research on jury decisionmaking. Two key questions about jury competence, reflecting two criticisms of the jury in business cases, will be explored here. First, what are the jury's factfinding abilities in such cases? Are jurors able to understand and evaluate the specialized technical evidence so central to the evaluation of much business wrongdoing? Second, in cases involving individual lawsuits against businesses, are juries biased in their decisionmaking, either for or against business?

Publication Citation

Published in: Law and Contemporary Problems, vol. 52, no. 4 (Autumn 1989).