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If You Win, Leave the Building

May 14, 2008

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Penca v. Jeffrey Management recently went to trial in New York County. The jury found that the defendant was liable for the plaintiff's injuries but then awarded zero damages, even though the injuries were thoroughly documented. After the verdict, the plaintiff's lawyer wanted to go into the jury room to talk to the jury and the defendant's lawyer agreed to accompany him. Three jurors left without speaking to the lawyers but three others agreed to talk. They said that they awarded no money because they thought the plaintiff's employer (who was not a party to the lawsuit) was the party really at fault and that the defendants in the case should not be made to pay damages. When the judge got wind of these comments, he called the three jurors into the courtroom, polled them on the record, confirmed the inapproriate reasoning behind their verdict, and ordered a new trial. Lesson for Counsel: When you win, pack your things and leave the building. While it is possible the same thing would have happened here, the jurors might not have been so open with just one of the lawyers in the room. Nothing good can come from talking to the jury after they give you everything they have to give.

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