Understanding The Role Of The Judge And Jury In Business Law Cases
If your business law case goes to trial, the judge will determine who is right, and make a decision. Or will the jury do that? Wait-why is there a judge and a jury, and what decisions do each of them make? It sounds like their jobs may overlap, but in fact, they have distinct roles and differences in your business law trial.
When Do You Get a Jury?
Contrary to popular belief, in civil cases, you don’t get a jury in every kind of case. Your case generally has to be worth enough money that it gets into county circuit court (for state court cases) to get a jury. Most federal cases will give you the option for a jury as well.
However, some business law cases, like foreclosures, or evictions, do not carry any right to a jury. Additionally, parties can and often do contractually waive their right to a jury.
What the Judge Does
Assuming you have a right to a jury, the jury doesn’t actually play any role in your case until your trial starts. Before trial, the judge will make crucial decisions about things that directly will impact your trial later on.
For example, a judge may determine:
- Whether you get certain kinds of evidence that you need from the other side
- Whether your experts can testify
- What can, and cannot, be said or presented at trial
- Whether you can legally even make the claims that you are making in your lawsuit
- Whether there is even enough evidence to support your claim, or your defenses, for the case to be heard by a jury
During trial, the judge will make decisions on the spot about disputed evidence, and what the jury can and cannot hear. Additionally, the judge will settle disputes about instructions that will be given to the jury, which they will use in making their decision.
What Do Juries Do?
Juries will decide on questions of disputed facts. If two witnesses have conflicting views or opinions, the jury will decide which one is to be believed. The jury will decide whose expert to believe, if there are conflicting opinions (which is why it is so important to make sure that experts’ often technical testimony can be understood by jurors).
When there are different versions of an accident, or how a contract was formed, or whether a term in an agreement means X or Y, the jury will make that decision as well.
The jury can decide on whether someone’s conduct rose to the level of fraud. Of course, a jury will also decide on damages, and determine how much to award, if a party is found to be liable.
We can help explain the roles of both the jury and the judge to you, and help you through your business law case. Call the West Palm Beach business litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig if your business is sued for any reason.