12 Digits

Many of the posts we write are inspired by recent events, though our list has many titles we created as far back as 10 years ago at the inception of the Magnus Insights, 2’s Company blog. I’ll admit that there are many DF titles I haven’t written yet. I’m writing today, while smiling a bit, at one of the minor details that have a major impact in our work, that is, calculators. That’s right, this post is about calculators. I titled this post “12 Digits,” because 8 is not enough (despite that it was on the 1970s era TV show). (As an aside, I don’t know why 8 digits became the norm. The first handheld calculator I ever touched was invented by a friend of an uncle of mine. It was 8 digits, red LED, and was made in the guy’s garage. In the early 1970s, it cost, wholesale, $400. That was huge money!) There is an old adage about having to take off one’s shoes when counting something and you run out of fingers. Well, that means one literally needs more than 10 digits. In any event, I just had to purchase some 12 digit calculators, at less than $10 each I will add. Our battle worn, standard, 8 digit calculators have become obsolete when used by mock jurors in calculating and awarding damages. It’s not that jurors are frequently awarding damages exceeding 8 digits, the maximum of which could be as high as $99,999,999, though if decimal places are involved, as they sometimes are, it drops to $999,999.99. It is that, whether it is supposed to happen or not, mock jurors often use averaging to reach a number which they then use to try to get each other to agree with in awarding damages. Adding up what each of 6, 8, 10 or more mock jurors results in numbers exceeding 8 digits. Melissa and I have written about nuclear verdicts and we’ve discussed this phenomenon at length with many clients. While I think the nuclear verdict phenomenon is concerning, I think it is also sensationalized like many things are, because they get attention. Yet, perhaps the need for more than 8 digits is a tangible example of the trend toward higher damages. We are now ready for up to $999,999,999,999!

David is right.  We have a long list of topics to write about, including some that have been on our list for many years.  But lately, it seems that David writes about new things that inspire him instead of writing about something that inspired him years ago.  This being said, I never imagine we would write a post about calculators!  There’s not much about calculators that excites me, let alone inspires me to write about them.  But they are an essential part of what we do because jury deliberations require them.  These days, all of the mock jurors have smart phones that have calculators, however, they are required to turn off their phones during deliberations, forcing them to use an old school calculator.  One of the interesting things about using a calculator that we have observed is that the mock jurors forget they need to press the buttons firmly in order to get the numbers to appear on the display.  They are accustomed to using touch screens that rely on a softer touch than old fashioned calculators and they struggle with pushing the numbers.  This is yet another change in the way our business has been conducted over the past 30 years.  Magnus has worked on some big cases that necessitate lots of digits in their damages award.  The biggest case we have ever worked on was an intellectual property (IP) case that resulted in a $110 billion verdict. In terms of digits, this is, of course, $110,000,000,000, 12 digits.  Most of the cases in which we work are in the multi millions, not billions, of dollars, but as David said, due to the mock jurors’ penchant for averaging their individual damages awards in order to reach unanimity, it doesn’t take long for lots of digits to be input into a calculator. We will have an opportunity to test our new 12 digit calculator 2 days after writing this post, on a large case that will definitely require 12 digits.  Hooray for new technology to improve our old ways of doing things!

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