Our clients’ personal injury cases now are coming up for jury trials in this COVID 19 era. Some clients have not been vaccinated for COVID 19. As their lawyer in their upcoming jury trial, we discuss below why we recommend that clients get vaccinated if medically possible before the trial, and the choice this presents to the clients.
As trial lawyers, we deal with reality when we prepare for trial. In other words, we have a client, we have a jury pool, and we have hot button topics in the community impacting that jury pool. With those three inputs, we assess how the jury will react to our client. Is there something about our client to which the jury will negatively react, or fear? Because if there is, then, if possible, we remove that issue before the trial. Juror fears and dislikes can destroy a client’s case. It shouldn’t be that way, but that is the reality.
COVID 19 vaccination status ranks off the charts on the current hot button list. Most jurors hold strong opinions about whether a person should be vaccinated. And those opinions – depending on what they are –could hurt our unvaccinated client at trial.
It is not difficult to see why. If jurors figure out that our client is not vaccinated, some may fear that the client will infect them or their families with COVID 19 during the trial. They also may disagree – strongly — with the client’s decision not to get vaccinated. This is not good. As indicated, jurors don’t react well to people they fear will hurt them or their families, or think are different from them. We therefore remove issues like this — if we can – so that the jury focuses on the issues that they were called to decide. That is why we recommend that our clients get vaccinated for COVID 19 if medically possible before trial.
Of course, the client has the final say. It is the client’s case. We advise, serve, and recommend. If the client doesn’t want to get vaccinated for COVID 19, we explain the above dynamic to the client, including how the issue is likely to hurt the client’s case. The client then decides. We will try the case either way. The important thing is that the client knows the risks and makes an informed decision about this.
This issue came up recently with one of our clients. We recommended vaccination for the reasons set forth above. The client chose to remain unvaccinated. The case settled shortly before jury selection, so the issue never got to the jury. We expect that we will see this issue again.
COVID 19 continues with significant impacts on personal injury jury trials. Hopefully, this will soon be a thing of the past and jury trials — and life — will resume as before. It will be a pleasure to try cases without masks, social distancing, and the vaccination issue. Until that time, like everyone else, we will adapt and continue to advise our clients on their best course of action under the circumstances.