The CSI Effect



There's a well-known phenomenon in law called the CSI Effect. CSI Effect is named after the Crime Scene Investigation television show, in which technicians gather evidence and perform sophisticated scientific tests, such as DNA analysis.In criminal law, the CSI Effect means that juries expect to see forensic evidence or that they minimize circumstantial evidence. There's a CSI Effect in medical malpractice cases too, but it shows itself in a very different way.

In medical malpractice cases, there are actually two CSI Effects. The first CSI Effect refers to desensitization of juries to demonstrative evidence such as photos of plaintiff injuries. Years ago, attorneys would object to photos of certain injuries, such as burns or bedsores, as being too inflammatory. Inflaming the jury refers to triggering the jury members' emotions in such a way as to prejudice them against a party in the lawsuit.

However, the type of photo that inflamed jurors 20 years ago no longer has the same result due to the CSI Effect. Jurors have seen every conceivable injury in graphic detail on forensic television shows. An attorney told me that such photos no longer repulse jurors. In fact, juries view the photos in a detached, matter-of-fact way.

Who benefits most from the first type of CSI Effect in medical malpractice cases? I would argue that the Defense does. Of course, it's important for jurors to be fair and impartial, and to look at standards of care and causation before forming an opinion about the plaintiff's injuries. However, detached jurors might not "connect" with the plaintiff.

The second type of CSI Effect in medical malpractice litigation refers to the use of teaching aids to explain the evidence. Forensic TV shows use all types of animations and graphics to explain scientific findings. Because of this type of CSI Effect, jurors want to know how things work.

Who benefits most from the second type of CSI Effect? In my opinion, both sides have the potential to benefit by educating jurors. Both sides can use teaching aids, such as timelines, graphics, and models, to support their case theories.

...Katy Jones