Jury Duty

I spent the past six work days in a courthouse as a juror.  It was a civil case, involving a house repair after a burst pipe flooded it. Verdict went in at around 3 PM (Aug. 2) 

There is so much you don’t know on a jury. You can only consider the evidence placed before you…and sometimes you have to forget something you learned before the witness reacts to the word “Objection.”

It was a construction case, and, despite having grown up as the son (and sometimes employee) of a construction contractor, they chose me anyway. I don’t think it colored my reasoning anyway.

Based on this incomplete information, we had to award money to one or the other; doing nothing was, in effect, awarding money to the client who had not paid.

While I did not agree with the other eleven people on the jury about all of the outcomes (there were several charges both ways) I was very thankful to have all of them share the burden of making the decision. I can only imaging the burden carried by a judge in arbitration.

On the other hand, in arbitration, the judge can do research. We couldn’t. We had to even forget things we know about construction (like you postpone work on the outside to get the people back inside) if it was not presented as evidence.

I was very thankful to have my dad to talk this over with afterwards as he has fifty plus years in the construction industry. He clarified some of my assumptions (based on the incomplete information I gave him) and I think I can let go of my doubts. I can sleep soundly tonight knowing I did the best I could, and that, most likely, justice was served.

The number one thing I took away from this experience is, with anything involving contracting, or money in general, is to get everything in writing, communicate as clearly as possible. Aside from covering you for a future lawsuit, it might help prevent that lawsuit by keeping the other person on track. Run your business such that someone else could step in and take over from you, and know exactly what you were doing…or you can hand over what you want to a brand new contractor and they could take over. Obviously, that is a high bar to clear, but the better you do, the better for all involved.

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