So, what did you do last week? Work? School? Housework and blog work? Same old, same old?
I had jury duty.
Every American dreads it. You get the summons in the mailbox and your heart sinks. You struggle to find a way out of it. But once you get there, once you are chosen for a jury, you come to appreciate the awesome privilege and responsibility that it is.
Unless you get the case that I had.
Seconds ago, I wrote a detailed account of the trial. A frivolous lawsuit. Two young college kids. A fight over a girl. Punches pulled with minor injuries (a bloody nose and a black eye.) But I erased it. I feel for those two kids. One who let his temper get the best of him and the other who came off looking like a greedy, vengeful crybaby. I felt awkward sharing the intimate details of their mistake. The details aren’t important.
“They had a trial over THAT?” my 9-year-old asked.
Yep. Three days of my life. Three days of our taxes to finance THAT.
We all make mistakes. Violence is never the answer. The puncher realized that, said as much on the stand. Showed remorse and regret and wanted a chance to do it over. But he knew he couldn’t. So instead, he owned what he had done.
The punchee sat on the stand, looking pitiful, recalling the events that happened 18 months ago and tried to convince us that the bloody nose and black eye had scarred him for life.
We are a litigious society. We have a need to point the finger. And when we’ve been wronged we want someone to pay.
What Mr. Puncher did was wrong. Throwing a punch because you’re angry with someone is against the law. And he paid for that with repercussions at school and at least a night in jail. (And I only know that because of a comment from one of the witnesses. Neither lawyer pursued her comment. Nothing else was entered into evidence.)
But what Mr. Punchee did was wrong, too. Beyond medical bills, he deserves nothing else. All of the x-rays revealed he had a simple bloody nose and a black eye. No broken bones.This never should have gone to trial. And no one should expect pain and suffering for a scrap in a dorm room.
Re-reading what I’ve written, I’m afraid I sound cold. Unsympathetic to a boy who felt wronged. One of my fellow jurors would be thrilled to never see me again. She wanted to throw the book at Mr. Puncher. I wanted to shake my finger at Mr. Punchee and tell him to grow up.
We, as jurors, had so many questions. Did the university take action? How long was Mr. Puncher in jail? Because this was a civil trial, was there any other legal action taken before this trial? Did either side try to settle this out of court?
“I’ll bet Mr. Puncher refused to pay the medical bills,” said Juror #47, “That’s why we’re here.”
“I’ll bet Mr. Puncher agreed to pay the medical bills but Mr. Punchee demanded more,” said Juror Jane, “In closing arguments his lawyer pleaded with us to consider his pain and suffering. That’s what we were charged to determine. His lawyer already admitted to being good friends with Mr. Punchee’s father. An opportunity to cash in. Plain and simple. THAT’S why we’re here.”
In the end, we compromised with medical bills and a little compensation for the attorney’s fees and filing costs. I can live with that. Mr. Puncher needs to pay for the medical costs he created and a little more because this all wouldn’t have happened if he had kept his temper. Mr. Punchee can have a little of his honor restored by saying he “won” in court.
But pain and suffering? The only pain and suffering was endured by the tax payers, having to sit and listen to this frivolous suit.
And the bulk of Mr. Punchee’s attorney’s fees, to the tune of $11,500?
Let his dad and his buddy work that one out.