New Case Evaluation Tool Attempts to Replicate Jury Pool

By Denise Johnson | April 20, 2015

For decades, claims staff have tried to figure out case values using litigation research vendors and expensive mock trials.

Though Magna Legal Services, a national company, offers verdict searches too, its clients wanted something more refined. After a year of brainstorming and beta testing the company released the new product, Jury e-Valuator, last month.

“One of the issues with verdict searches, whether you’re going through Lexis or anything, is that you’re trying to find something that is current and also matches your actual case in your actual venue. It can be very challenging,” said Mark Calzaretta, partner and vice president of Litigation Consulting.

In fact, a 2010 study on lawyers’ ability to predict case outcomes found that of 481 attorneys, 44 percent of attorneys that attempted to predict an outcome of a pending case ended with worse than predicted results.

He said the tool offers a more scientific approach to evaluating case value. He cited an example of how the process works if an insurer retained the company’s services for an accident case that occurred in Philadelphia.

“We would test that actual case in real time in that actual venue using pools of jurors. It’s something that’s designed to specifically give you a value for your case in that particular venue on a case by case basis,” said Calzaretta. “When you use a hundred jurors, for example, our model is 95 percent accurate.”

The company tested the product on cases that had been tried and were handled internally for clients as well as cases where the company conducted jury research and completed trial work.

“In our initial phases, we want to replicate jury selection. We create an analysis of that particular venue, a demographic spread of what the makeup of that particular jury would be. Then we build that profile,” explained Calzaretta.

He said if attaining one hundred eligible jurors is the goal, the company might seek 150 who then would log into the company’s system and answer a number of demographic questions.

“Within those demographic questions, they would then be able to qualify,” Calzaretta said. “For example, if we had males between the age of 25 and 32 and we wanted X amount of those, once that amount or that criteria gets met, they’re blocked out. So they can’t log in. That’s built in so we make sure that we get the right demographic spread within that hundred people.”

After the one hundred eligible juror requirement is met, they go through a process similar to a voir dire cause challenge.

“Again, you’re trying to get the jury that would likely serve,” said Calzaretta. “Those hundred people would then be shown a video, a vignette of the actual case.”

A questionnaire with questions that are weighted is then provided to the juror pool.

“They have different weights based on our research. Ultimately, they render a verdict,” he said. “From there, once we get the hundred individual verdicts, we built an analytic tool which allows us to run simulations of those verdicts based on what we know and based on the weight of certain questions within the questionnaires that we developed.”

The analysis continues with a verdict simulator.

“Then we put them into 1,000 groups of 10, and they run through a simulator so we get a thousand verdicts. We get a low verdict, a high verdict and a weighted average,” he said. “It’s actually a scientific and statistically significant approach to damages. You’re going to get a thousand simulated verdicts from what would be a thousand juries potentially deliberating your case.”

Calzaretta says the process isn’t slowed by having to create the video vignette

Currently, the company delivers a video within 14 days. He said the pricing is reasonable.

“It’s not like one of these things that’s untouchable so that we can only use it on the most horrific, unfortunate sort of circumstances, on the really bad cases,” said Calzaretta. “These are inexpensive and they’re in line with what traditional verdict searches would cost through Lexis and in conjunction with an attorney.”

He explained there are different levels, ranging from using 25 jurors, 50 jurors and one hundred jurors.

“The validity of the model does change. For example, I said it was 95 percent. That’s with a thousand simulations. Then it goes down to 85 percent and then 75 percent on the 25. The 25s get a hundred simulations and 50’s get 250,” he explained.

Types of Cases

The product works best with property/casualty and personal injury cases. The company hasn’t tested it on patent or complex commercial cases.

“It was really designed for corporate legal departments and insurance carriers that were handling catastrophic to your standard general liability type cases, products cases. We tested it on product liability cases. We tested on medical malpractice cases. It would be those right now. That was the target.”

Currently, Calzaretta said there is nothing else like it on the market.

“The model works. The model is able to tell you with a degree of certainty that there never has been before how much your case is worth. It’s not going to tell you exactly what that number is, but it’s going to give you this range that you know you’re going to fall in…with a 95 percent accuracy,” he said. “What it will give you the ability to do is earlier on to cut down on cycle time to make a better evaluation. We say it’s worth $100,000. The plaintiff wants $700,000. The juries are telling us our weighted average is at $250,000. We know it’s going to cost another hundred to litigate this, not even to try it. If we can settle it now at this amount, we’re going to save money. We’re going to cut down on cycle time and reallocate resources and things of that nature.”

Calzaretta thinks the product will also be useful in venues considered bad, like Cook County, Ill.; Beaumont, Texas; West Texas; Maricopa County; and Miami-Dade, Florida.

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