False reports about jury verdicts/Erfundene Jury-Entscheidungen

Vor ein paar Monaten bekam ich zum wiederholten Mal eine irreführende E-Mail über vermeintliche Fehlentscheidungen von US-Geschworenen (‘hierzulande unfassbar’) im Umlauf. Diese Mails werden zu Urban Legends, dabei sind sie entweder erfunden oder maßlos übertrieben.

Schon der Fall von Stella Liebeck (McDonalds coffee) wird im Internet meist falsch zitiert.

Die E-Mail wurde im Januar von Dirk Olbertz gebloggt, mit deutscher Übersetzung.

There’s an email doing the rounds that runs down the American jury. I received it last a couple of months ago, but it wasn’t the first time. It reminds me of the interest in the Runaway Jury film that I wrote about in the last entry, in that it was circulating in Germany as well as in the USA.

The Stella’s are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled coffee on herself and successfully sued McDonalds. That case inspired the Stella Awards for the most frivolous successful lawsuits in the United States.
The following are this year’s winners:
5th Place (tie): Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas, was awarded $780,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering the misbehaving little toddler was Ms. Robertson’s own son.

An article by Pat Vaughan Tremmel deals with this:

But there is one major problem. None of those cases actually exists. Not one of them could be located in court records, jury verdict reporters, contemporaneous news accounts or even through local bar association tort committees

Alle diese Fälle sind erfunden.

Because media reports generally focus on the unusual case or verdict, the popular image of jury behavior that emerges is skewed in the direction of exceptional cases, according to Diamond [Professorin für Jura]. In addition, news stories about actual jury verdicts provide incomplete and potentially misleading descriptions of the evidence that the jury heard and, due to the secrecy of the deliberations, only limited information on how the verdict was reached.

Eine Professorin an Northwestern University sagt, weil die Medien gern über ausgefallene Entscheidungen berichten ergibt sich in der Presse ein falsches Bild. Hinzukommt, dass viele Details der Beweismittel und der Geschworenenberatungen nicht berichtet werden dürfen.

Unter der Überschrift ‘Stella Awards Hoax’ warnt Trend Micro davor, falsche E-Mails weiterzuleiten.

Although some of the Stella Awards cases are actually true, the ones included in the email below is purely fictitious. Trend Micro advises users to be more discriminate in sending forwarded email messages, as they unnecessarily cause confusion and spread false and unverified information.
The about.com site, under the Urban Legends heading, recommends the True Stella Awards – not so exciting, but true.

Here’s a statement that the current stories are untrue:

Here’s one of the true stories:

Wanda Hudson, 44, of Mobile, Ala. After Hudson lost her home to foreclosure, she moved her belongings to a storage unit. She says she was inside her unit one night “looking for some papers” when the storage yard manager found the door to her unit ajar — and locked it. She denies that she was sleeping inside, but incredibly did not call for help or bang on the door to be let out! She was not found for 63 days and barely survived; the formerly “plump” 150-pound woman lived on food she just happened to have in the unit, and was a mere 83 pounds when she was found. She sued the storage yard for $10 million claiming negligence. Even though the jury was not allowed to learn that Hudson had previously diagnosed mental problems, it found Hudson was nearly 100 percent responsible for her own predicament — but still awarded her $100,000.

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