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Million Dollar Pictures: Jurors' Estimates of Modern Art



By Galina Davidoff of Magna Legal Services

We often talk about how presenting to jurors is an art and a science, and that phrase could not have been more literal for me recently. In my role as a jury consultant, I conducted mock trials for two very different cases, both involving extremely valuable pictures. Both cases later went to trial. One case (Case #1) was about a sale and pricing of a famous modern painting worth millions of dollars. Most of our mock jurors could not understand why the painting was worth so much (and many of the jurors were sure they could paint equally well!).

Another case (Case #2) involved allegations of patent infringement countered with allegations of obviousness and invalidity. The patent covered a part of agricultural machinery and seemed relatively simple compared to many modern inventions. Yet, in our jury research for the defense, most mock jurors did not see the obviousness we claimed. So, new trial graphics were created to bring out what jurors needed to see. In the modern art case, the jury sided with our client, the plaintiff, but decided that prices of such things are so fickle that the plaintiff cannot prove substantial losses. Their award to the plaintiff was modest compared to the demand. In the patent case the jury saw the obviousness we claimed, invalidated the patent and saved the defendants millions of dollars -- they can now go ahead and buy the above-mentioned painting if they think it is worth the price!

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