Fang: Using Flowchart Verdict Sheets To Mitigate Inconsistent Civil Jury Verdicts

Jerry J. Fang of Duke University Law School has published 12 Confused Men: Using Flowchart Verdict Sheets To Mitigate Inconsistent Civil Verdicts, Duke Law Journal 64, 287-331 (2014).

Here is the abstract:

The finality of jury verdicts reflects an implicit societal acceptance of the soundness of the jury’s decision. Regardless, jurors are not infallible, and the questions they are often tasked with deciding are unfortunately neither obvious nor clear. The length of trial, complexity of subject matter, volume of factual background, and opaqueness of law can converge in a perfect storm that may confound even the most capable juror. Although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide decision rules to resolve inconsistent verdicts, the current remedies authorized by Rule 49—notably, the resubmission of the verdict to the jury and the ordering of a new trial—impose time and money costs on the jury, litigants, and judicial system. The increasing complexity of civil litigation raises the stakes by increasing the likelihood of juror error and the costs of relitigating the case.

This Note proposes the creation of flowchart verdict sheets as a prophylactic against juror confusion. The flowchart verdict sheet builds upon current legal reform proposals to increase juror understanding while decreasing juror confusion and incorporates principles of effective visual design. By mitigating the confusion that can result in inconsistencies before the verdict is rendered, the flowchart verdict sheet enables the judicial system to avoid the costs associated with remedying inconsistent verdicts.

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