The Daily

What Is A Jury Trial No. 7: And Justice For All?

Lee County Courthouse

“Justice delayed is justice denied.”

            A legal maxim often attributed to William Penn

 Clients are often surprised by the length of time their claims wait for final resolution in the courthouse. This is especially true for cases that may take a week or more to try. Insurance carriers and lawyers for defendants are financially motivated to delay and are adept at employing strategies that can maximize that delay. Those delaying tactics should be fought aggressively at every turn. Beyond that, however, our courthouses are increasingly overburdened and not resourced properly. These protracted delays can frustrate or even destroy your legal remedy. No injured client needs the additional burden of watching their over-matched lawyer trying to push a rope up a hill.

According to the National Center for State Courts, Florida’s total appropriations for the judiciary decreased from $458 million to $444 million in fiscal year 2013[1]. This was after dramatic cuts in the budget for the Courts after the economic collapse in 2008. Based upon those numbers, the entire third branch of state government in Florida operated with .7% of the budget in 2012 and .6% of the budget in 2013. By comparison, other neighboring states with much smaller populations and fewer metropolitan cities (Arkansas and Kentucky, for example) averaged 3.5%[2]. In Florida’s crowded metropolitan counties, this means that the most seriously injured plaintiffs will experience unnecessary delays in a final resolution of their case. But every plaintiff in a cash strapped judiciary stands the chance of experiencing the slow motion feeling of watching the wheels coming off the train – if not properly represented.

In 2005, 7.4 million civil claims were filed nationally with only 26,950 (3%) of those going all the way to jury trial[3]. Plaintiffs won a little more than half of those cases and the median jury verdict in all civil trials (including business disputes) was $28,000. The study showed that the median award for ordinary negligence cases is decreasing. While the percentage of successful Plaintiffs in complex jury trials remains low (22% in medical malpractice cases and 19% in product liability cases), the median award in those complex cases is rising (five times higher than the prior survey in product liability cases [$749,000] and two and a half times higher in medical malpractice cases [$682,000])[4].

Large states with complicated populations like Florida cannot support a judiciary built on a fraction of one percent of the state budget. A greater commitment and more resources must be shown this third and essential branch of government. It is the only branch of government where ordinary lay citizens have a daily role in performing a necessary and vital function. As such, it is directly reflective of the will of the people and deserves the resources sufficient to allow it to flourish in that role.

The largest jury verdict in 2005 was $172 million in a class action brought by 116,000 employees of a large retailer in California for mass violation of an employment law requiring shift breaks. Under the California law, the retailer was required to reimburse a full hours’ pay plus interest for every violation. Without a well-functioning civil justice system, large corporations would not be held accountable for these kinds of violations.

I am prosecuting two class actions involving data breaches by health care providers that left millions exposed to identity theft[5]. While the remedies are very different in Federal and State Court, all of those clients are relying on a well-functioning civil justice system and the possibility of a jury trial to ensure that their remedy becomes a reality and not a fantasy. Your case is important – choose a lawyer that is prepared to push your case to a swift and full resolution.

[1] NCSC Budget and Resource Report.

[2] The Florida Times-Union, February 15, 2012, ‘Judicial System Needs Reliable Funding’

[3] Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice, Special Report, Civil Justice Survey of State Courts, 2005: Civil Bench and Jury Trials in State Courts 2005, October 2008, revised March 19, 2009.

[4] Id.

[5] On November 13, 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation notified 21st Oncology that over two million of their patients’ confidential records and data had been collected and sold by criminals using the Internet.[5] 21st Century’s patients were not notified of the breach for three months or more. This was not the first data breach at 21st Century: in 2013, a 21st Century employee caused a similar data breach. 21st Century also recently settled a False Claims Act filed by the Federal Government for almost twenty million dollars ($20,000,000.00). In a separate incident on December 19, 2015, an unsecured garbage truck carrying whole, un-redacted and confidential patient records from Radiology Regional dumped nearly a half million patients’ records onto a windy, dry, city street where they were blown around for days. Despite Radiology Regional being immediately aware of the data breach, the half million patients were not notified of the breach by Radiology Regional for several months.