What factors influence jurors' decisions in medical malpractice cases? Writing in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (a magazine you don't see in the grocery check-out line), a member of Harvard's Trial Ad faculty summarizes the research. Linda S. Crawford, Why Winners Win: Decision Making in Medical Malpractice Cases, J Am Acad Orthop Surg. vol. 15 Suppl 1:S70-4 (2007).
She organizes the article around four questions jurors ask: Whom can I trust in this lawsuit? (This includes comments about attorneys, experts, and the plaintiff.) If I were in a medical crisis, would I be in safe hands with this physician? In the circumstances, did the physician do the best he or she could? Did he or she make the right medical decision?
Juries make their decisions first and foremost based on their evaluation
of the individual before them. Issues of character trump all other presumptions.
Presuming the medicine is sound, the physician who passes the character test will be given the benefit of the doubt on his or her medicine. The challenge is to be that person of character in the often difficult, hostile environment of the courtroom.