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Commercial Litigation: To Jury or Not To Jury, That is the Question

4/28/2015 | Commercial Litigation Blog

The famous commercial litigator, William Shakespeare, Esquire first asked the question above (as I recall, anyhow) in 1603.  So what’s the answer?

Here are some reasons why you, as a party to litigation (especially commercial litigation), might (or might not) want a jury trial :

1.  Because a jury is more likely to be swayed by sympathy than a judge, you might want a jury trial if your position is more sympathetic than your opponent’s.

2.  You might want a jury trial if your opponent is a big, bad insurance company, bank, or other large corporation (and you aren’t).

3.  It takes longer to get a jury trial in many jurisdictions than a non-jury trial.  This can sometimes be an advantage, and other times, not.

4.  You have a case that regular folks (like jurors) are likely to understand well, you might want a jury trial.  If your case turns on complicated facts, you might prefer a bench trial (though this can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on which judge is assigned to hear the case).

5.  Juries tend to be more generous with Defendants’ money.  if you are a Plaintiff, you might prefer a jury; if you are a Defendant, you probably won’t.

6.  Jury trials are more expensive (sometimes a LOT more expensive) than bench trials.  If you think you want a jury trial, you should consider the additional expense.

The truth is that very few civil cases are tried before a jury.  If this wasn’t so, the entire system would grind to a halt.  Also, not every type of case is entitled to be tried before a jury.  Finally, in some cases involving contracts, the contract contains a jury waiver, in which case a jury trial is unavailable. 

You should consider the factors set forth above (and others) before you demand a jury trial.  We can help you decide how best to handle your matter.

Bill Levant

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