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The Importance of Graphics as Courts Shift to Telephonic Hearings

March 19th, 2020|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. How do you start a blog about what we are all going through right now? Most of us have never experienced anything like this before and making the adjustments that we are being asked to make is difficult at times. I was telling my kids earlier today that I am not sure everyone in our household is going to survive this pandemic and that has nothing to do with Coronavirus. Different parts of the United States seem to be adjusting in different ways based on the number of cases in that particular area. In Seattle,

The Causes of Social Inflation and “Nuclear” Jury Verdicts

February 12th, 2020|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. Last year, Johnson & Johnson was hit with an $8 billion verdict by a Philadelphia jury, an amount that exceeded the gross domestic product of more than sixty countries (included Monaco, Belize, and Greenland) in that same year, according to data from the International Monetary Fund. In fact, Johnson & Johnson has become the posterchild for what many in the legal industry refer to as “nuclear verdicts,” but J&J is not alone. Jury verdict awards in the hundreds of millions and billions are becoming more and more common in American trials. The impact of this

The Importance of Letting Jurors Be Egocentric in Voir Dire

January 24th, 2020|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. If you follow this blog or read our column in the King County Bar Bulletin, you know that I have been working with another well-respected jury consultant, Kevin Boully, to develop the study of Jury Economics, which is behavioral economics applied to jury decision-making. Behavioral economics has become a critical field of study across many industries due to its focus on the predictably irrational ways in which people act and make decisions. Jury economics tells us that there are three core components to all jury decision-making: 1) it is egocentric; 2) it is economical; and

An Introduction to Jury Economics

November 6th, 2019|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. and Kevin R. Boully, Ph.D. *A version of this blog was published in the October 2019 issue of the King County Bar Bulletin What is jury economics? If you google it, you will find no matching results. If you search any of the books written on jury persuasion or decision-making, you will not find the term. It has never been used before, but we hope to make it an important part of your vocabulary with this blog post, which is going to draw on the ongoing research and analysis we have been conducting over the

A Moving Timeline of the Mueller Report

October 29th, 2019|

  Sound Jury Consulting has the ability to make sense of complex issues through custom moving timelines.  Here is an example of a visually compelling and organized representation of a complex timeline. This timeline is based on the Washington Post’s extensive review of the Mueller Report, which can be found here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/politics/mueller-investigations-plots/

Jury Verdicts are Products of Jurors’ Focus

October 24th, 2019|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. One of the most important sayings in our industry is that a verdict is a product of what jurors choose to talk about and focus on most during deliberations. Focus in deliberations is zero sum. If jurors are talking about one thing, they are not talking about something else. Every case has several different focal points, and those focal points tell different stories about the case. Think about the example of the film Rudy about Rudy Ruttiger, the kid who desperately wanted to play football at Notre Dame. We could focus on the game itself,

Give Jurors a Clear Process for Deliberations

October 9th, 2019|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. A key milestone in any jury deliberation is the selection of the process for deliberations. At some point early in the deliberations, a process for the discussion is established. Jurors either verbally decide on a process or they simply default to one. By process, I mean the way in which they discuss the issues in order to reach a verdict. There are many different ways they can approach the discussion of the issues, and that process is important because it fundamentally influences the outcome. For example, if the process begins with everyone going around and

Making Your Case Relevant to Millennial Jurors

October 3rd, 2019|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. It’s hard being in a place where you don’t speak the same language as those around you. Where everyone dresses differently. Where you don’t understand their values or what causes them to act in certain ways. It can make you feel overwhelmed, vulnerable, and make you long for home. Am I talking about traveling abroad? Not quite. I’m talking about millennials on your jury. Millennials are a hot topic among lawyers these days, mainly because their presence on juries around the country continues to grow. A lot of people like to adopt a “kids these

Six “Talk Triggers” for Jury Deliberations

September 18th, 2019|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. Why do jurors talk about some testimony in deliberations, but not other testimony? Why do jurors start deliberations by talking about an issue that is not related to the first verdict form question? Why do they seem to want to talk about the one thing you repeatedly told them was irrelevant? These are important questions, and the answers may help attorneys exert greater control over what jurors spend their time talking about in deliberations. The strategic advantage that would come from this is difficult to overstate. After all, the cliché in our field is that

Examining Defense Strategy for the Upcoming Landmark Opioid Trials in Ohio

September 5th, 2019|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. Next month, the largest jury trial to date against opioid manufacturers, distributers, and sellers will take place in northeastern Ohio. The trial will involve the first case among the consolidated lawsuits brought by about approximately two thousand cities, counties, tribes, and others. In light of the recent decision in Oklahoma, in which a judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572M to the state, it is easy to understand why the stakes are significant. These cases are particularly interesting because of how they mirror the tobacco lawsuits filed by states years ago. The brilliant tactic