Jury questions add extra element to Vioxx trial.

In what continues to be the most comprehensive reporting of the Vioxx trial, The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on the novel practice of allowing jurors to ask questions during the trial. Judge Carol Higbee has allowed the jury to ask separate questions of witnesses after both lawyers have completed their direct and cross examinations, and many of the questions have raised concerns among court watchers and jury consultants about the effectiveness of the plaintiff's argument.

Quoting the article, " A recent study by the Center for Jury Studies at the National Center for State Courts found that nearly 18% of state and federal trials in the prior 12 months included juror questions, and that the ABA in February adopted a policy recommending that judges allow juror questions during civil trials. All 50 states now give judges discretion in allowing juror questions during civil trials, with five states prohibiting juror questions in criminal cases: Georgia, Nebraska, Minnesota, Mississippi and Texas."

What has concerned those on the plaintiff side is that many of the questions from jurors have focused on issues and areas of the plaintiffs prior health and condition, and have not been as focused on the heart of the case the plaintiffs have put in alleging negligence of deception by Merck. While no one can divine an outcome based on these questions, I'm sure it's making for some anxious moments and calls to jury consultants to determine what needs to be driven home in the closing days of the trial to drive home their argument.

Intriguing reading and solid reporting.


Posted on October 15, 2005 .