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                                         87 N.J.L.J. 609
                                        September 24, 1964


Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court


Verdict of Expectancy Service
Furnishing Data

    An attorney representing a party in a personal injury action in which a general verdict was entered inquires whether he may properly accede to a request from a publishing concern to amplify in certain respects facts stated in a newspaper report of the case. If it is found to be proper to supply such information under any circumstances, he inquires whether he must first obtain the consent of his client.
    Specific information requested is the amount of medical expense and loss of earnings of the injured person, description of the injuries, the amount of plaintiffs final settlement demand and any settlement offer, and a statement of "Liability Facts." The concern making the request publishes for sale to lawyers, insurance
companies and others, a loose-leaf book which it describes as a "Jury Verdict Expectancy Service," and an edition is published for each state. An advertising brochure issued by this concern urges its use "for more profitable personal injury claim and law suit management." The service includes so called "personal injury and liability evaluation tables" which claim to be based upon over 20,000 personal injury verdicts collected from all over the United

States and analyzed by "an outstanding research staff who have placed the evaluation and trial of personal injury cases on a scientific basis." These tables and other information contained in the service are designed for the purpose of showing the "current verdict expectancy for all bodily injuries usually encountered in personal injury accidents." The concern's brochure suggests that citing the valuation tables to opposing personnel usually results in prompt settlements and citing them to one's client makes for a satisfied client. The statement is made that such valuation tables have been tested for over two years by several thousand lawyers, insurance companies and others who have found that the tables can be relied upon as a valid means of predicting jury verdicts. For the first time, it states "you can predict trial results in your own jurisdiction with the same degree of soundness that life expectancy tables predict longevity." The advertising brochure lists an advisory board containing the names of a number of very prominent lawyers in the personal injury field, two professors and the vice president of an insurance company.
    The concern publishing the service has furnished sample copies of the publication to this Committee. In response to the suggestion
that the Committee would be interested in any additional data from the company, its editor has made the statement that it is a research organization which is compiling information of valuable use to the profession. He calls attention to the fact that the court involved in this case is a court of record and accordingly the records of what occurred at the trial are available to the public, that most information received is merely used in statistical work and is not published with the name of the case or attorneys involved. He contends that his concern is merely seeking to check the accuracy of information received from public sources and seeks additional information, "none of it confidential," so as to make the record meaningful. He states further that the concern has received the cooperation of the foremost law firms in the country.
    Two questions are involved. The first concerns the matter of public policy, the second the matter of the attorney's obligation not to disclose confidential information.
    On the first question, it is the Committee's opinion that there is no inherent reason why such information should not be made available to a legitimate research concern. An attorney handling a personal injury action is faced with the necessity of evaluating it and deciding on the basis of such evaluation whether to settle the
case or to try it, and, if to settle it, on what basis. Such decisions are extremely important to the client as well as to the attorney.
    There is no established method or formula for evaluating personal injury actions, but the amount of recovery in similar actions for similar types of injuries is one of the factors which can and properly should be used in making the required determination. Any information which will be helpful or serve as a guide to the attorney in making a proper decision or recommendation
should be used. Such information on a statewide or national basis showing the range of recoveries in similar cases should certainly be extremely useful.
    The result of such a service would appear to supply a tool by which the legal profession and others concerned with personal injury actions might better serve their clients in bringing fair and equitable settlements. The more accurate the service, the more valuable it should be in the interest of the clients and, therefore, the legal profession. For a lawyer to supply information by which that service can provide as accurate a statistical and factual basis as possible for its publication is entirely consistent with that objective. Therefore, from the standpoint of public policy, the service appears to be a legitimate one.
    The second question must be answered on the basis that it is the attorney's obligation not to disclose to any source, no matter how commendable, information concerning his client's case which is not a matter of public record, unless it is done with the approval and consent of the client. The amount of any jury verdict obtained in a court in this State is a matter of record and may, therefore, be divulged without consent of the client. Other matters of record
may similarly be divulged. Information as to settlement demands and offers is clearly confidential and should not be disclosed without the consent of the client. The nature of the injuries, the facts concerning liability and the amounts recovered for loss of earnings and medical expenses comprise information not ordinarily separately stated in the verdict. These items cannot correctly be said to be a matter of public record, even though the evidence as to them upon which the verdict may ultimately be based is a matter of record. To the extent that any such information is not clearly a matter of record, it should not be revealed without the client's approval.
    This Committee should not be understood as endorsing the particular service, its reliability, or the accuracy of its claims.

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