One of Us Must Be Wrong

One of our first marketing trips when Melissa and I started Magnus was to my hometown of Jacksonville to call on family friends and referrals. I will always remember visiting one of those attorneys, Carl, who told us that he and his client, an insurance adjuster, disagreed on the value of a case. It was a dispute over a life insurance policy worth $1 million. The adjuster didn’t think the policy should be paid because of the nature of the death. The lawyer said he thought it could easily result in a verdict greater than the $1 million policy amount. He said to us, regarding the adjuster, “One of us must be wrong.” How right he was! At the time, 30 years ago, I did not fully appreciate the relationship among the lawyer, the 1st line adjuster, the supervisor, the manager, and others on a claims committee. But, what Carl knew was that the case was risky to the point that it warranted mock jury research. Carl was right, by the way, mock jurors were very willing to award more than $1 million. The adjuster took note, and negotiated with the plaintiffs’ attorney accordingly, settling for, as I recall, $800,000, a “savings” of $200,000. For all the years since then, I’ve used this as an example of how spending money on jury research can save money. Most of our cases these days are worth much more than $1 million, but even now, that’s real money.

David’s post reminds me of a song; of course it does! The song is titled, “You Know I’m Right” and it was written by David Gilmour (of Pink Floyd fame). One of the lines in the song is “Either you are wrong or I am right.” Another is “Why should you bother with the other side when you know yours is right.”  In a recent post, David and I mentioned an insurance adjuster who thwarted us at every turn because he didn’t want to conduct jury  research out of a fear it would disconfirm his beliefs.  His mind was like concrete in that it was all mixed up and permanently set.  Fortunately, his superiors at the insurance company overruled him, agreeing with the defense attorney that mock jury research was essential for the case, which involved serious and permanent injuries of a celebrity.  We conducted research in this high profile case and guess what? The research results confirmed the attorney’s belief that the damages awarded to the plaintiff were potentially huge, thereby disconfirming the adjuster’s belief that the case was worth the zero dollars the insurance company had offered to settle it.  Sometimes, when an issue is a matter of opinion, for example, when someone doesn’t agree with me that The Beatles are the greatest band in the history of the world, instead preferring The Rolling Stones, a country band, or opera (does opera have bands?), I can respect their opinion.  Or I try to respect it!  But when someone argues about something about which they know nothing, or less than I do, it is easier than ever, thanks to modern technology, to prove them wrong.  And, when it comes to evaluating a multi million dollar case, or a billion dollar case, conducting scientific research is the best way to settle a debate over whose beliefs about its outcome are correct.  

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