Often times, when people think of the word “tort,” the phrase “tort reform” often comes to mind. Tort reform typically refers to a recent wave of legislation in various parts of the country that is designed to limit an individual’s right to sue someone or something. Many people have an opinion–one way or the other–concerning tort reform and lawsuits in general.
For this reason, during a process called “voire dire,” trial lawyers in personal injury cases will often times ask prospective jurors in civil jury trials to give their opinions on tort reform. As plaintiffs’ lawyers, we want to make sure that all jurors will be able to decide a case fairly without any preconceived notions about tort reform. For example, if a prospective juror feels that society is too litigious and that all lawsuits are wrong, a lawyer may decide to “strike” or eliminate that individual from the pool of prospective jurors.
Unfortunately, though, trial attorneys sometimes go overboard in asking prospective jurors complex questions about tort reform and lawsuits. This method often times only serves to confuse the jury pool. My sister recently had jury duty, and after it was over (she wasn’t selected for the jury) she said to me, “They asked us a lot of questions. Everyone was confused by the torts question.”
So, as trial lawyers, it is our duty to try to give the general public a clearer understanding of tort law and how it relates to everyday life. In future blog posts, I will discuss a key way that tort law affects many consumers in New Jersey. (Hint: it involves your auto insurance coverage!)