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On September 26, at the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven, in Woodbridge, Conn., Quinnipiac University School of Law professor Neal Feigenson introduced the controversial topic of outrageous jury verdicts discussed in his first book, “Legal Blame: How Jurors Think and Talk About Accidents.” Feigenson spoke as part of a lecture series presented by the JCC. In his talk, Professor Feigenson recalled how he had investigated jurors and the reasons that they reached the verdicts that they did after attending a Trial Lawyers Association mock trial. He noted that the general population had an unfavorable image of juries. His belief that jurors were doing a good job overall led him to publish his sentiments in various law journals in 1991. In time, his research culminated in writing “Legal Blame.” In his explanation of the reputation and reality of outrageous verdicts, he explained that accident victims who were the least severely injured tended to receive greater damages, while victims that were more severely injured got less. He also found that the news media coverage of a story could impact a jury verdict. Where some stories got a lot of coverage, the public, and jurors, tended to believe those stories. “One of my goals was to encourage people to be more thoughtful toward jury decisions,” Feigenson explained. “There are multidimensional decisions involved: the legal rule of law, procedure, the facts of a case, and common sense. Most jurors strive for total justice although they are often right for the wrong reasons.” When asked by the audience why jurors “get it wrong sometimes,” Professor Feigenson explained there was no persuasive research to indicate that jurors go after certain individuals because they believe them to have deep pockets, although jurors may lean towards anti-corporate decisions. Feigenson was also on hand for a book-signing at the Barnes and Noble Yale Bookstore on October 12. On September 22, The Connecticut Jewish Ledger published a review of Professor Feigenson’s book by Reed Rubinstein, who called the book “provocative … comprehensive and enlightening.” Rubinstein also claimed that Feigenson’s “conception of “total justice’ [a final squaring of accounts between parties to the action] is in fact a very useful tool for explaining jury behavior.” Finally, Rubinstein felt that “Feigenson’s book, and his extensive and comprehensive research, could well serve as a basis for making the jury system more efficient and more effective.” Professor Feigenson’s book went on sale in May, and is available through the American Psychological Association.

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