Juries in North, West, East, and Central Texas are notoriously conservative in awarding damages in personal injury claims. South Texas has a reputation for being more liberal, probably due to the disproportionate Hispanic population.
One reason for this conservatism, at least in Dallas County, has to do with juror pay. The standard daily pay for serving on a Texas jury is $6.00. The amount has not been increased since 1954, and is the lowest in the nation. This paltry amount barely covers the cost of courthouse parking.
The $6.00 pay is one reason many working people simply don’t show up for jury duty. In Dallas County it is estimated that only one in five people summoned to jury duty actually go to the courthouse. Unfortunately, there is no follow-up, so there is no punishment for refusing to serve. What this means, in practical terms, is that Dallas juries are composed of retired people, housewives, and executives who will be paid their salary whether they are at work or not. The people who don’t serve are the hourly workers who cannot afford to be off work for any length of time.
Fortunately, there is a bill pending in the Texas Senate to raise juror pay to $40.00 per day. If passed, this bill should increase the percentage of working men and women on Texas juries, and give juries a more balanced cross-section of the actual Texas population. That would be a good thing for personal injury plaintiffs, which probably means it has little chance of passing. But we can hope.