You’ve heard the phrase “justice is blind.” That concept means that in theory, the law treats everybody equally and focuses only on the issue at hand – without any irrelevant outside factors weighing on the decision. Though the concept is specifically associated with criminal court, the same principle applies to civil court as well.
But the key words in that paragraph are “in theory.” In practice, outside factors do sometimes affect the outcomes of criminal and civil cases. That may not be right or fair, but it is true.
Let’s look at an incident which happened last weekend near Orangeville in Stephenson County. Police reported that a two-car collision occurred on Saturday at the intersection of Orangeville Road and Illinois 26. It involved a 20-year old Wisconsin man and an 18-year old Loves Park woman, who was injured in the crash and taken to a hospital.
According to sheriff’s deputies, the man was charged with failure to yield at a stop/yield intersection, which means that he either ran a stop or yield sign or pulled out into the roadway before it was clear of traffic. But police also cited the teen for possession of both marijuana and alcohol, as well as driving too fast for conditions.
Let’s pretend for a moment that the woman filed a personal injury lawsuit against the Wisconsin man and the case went to trial. Judging by the citations issued by authorities, it appears that the man is primarily (or perhaps completely) at fault in this accident because he did not properly obey a traffic sign. However, if a jury hears that the 18-year old victim had alcohol and drugs in the car with her, they may be inclined to assign a larger portion of the blame to her – even though there’s no evidence that she was driving under the influence at the time of the incident. Jurors might simply (and even unconsciously) consider those “irrelevant outside factors” when they render their verdict.
Now, here’s another reality check: there’s no guarantee that any such lawsuit will be filed; and if it is, there’s a large possibility that the case will be settled long before it sees the inside of a courtroom. And even if the case does make it to trial, the plaintiff’s attorney may succeed in preventing the charges of alcohol and marijuana possession from being revealed to the jury – if he or she can convince the judge that the information is irrelevant to the case.
But this scenario shows that the possibility exists for justice “not to be blind” in these types of lawsuits.