Consumer fraud trials can be complicated, LONG and a challenge. There are Rules of Court that must be followed, rules of evidence and Model Jury Instructions. A trial has very little to do with everyday common sense. There are strict rules to address what arguments can be made, what facts can be presented to the judge and jury and burdens of proof and persuasion. It takes years of in court experience to understand a trial, especially a Consumer For a Trial.
A Consumer Fraud Trial has a large amount of very technical requirements/proof/burdens. As in most cases, the plaintiff has the burden. However in some areas of a Consumer Trial the burden is lowered because of the practical considerations the legislature has determined are necessary for the enforcement of the consumer fraud act.
A good example is Proximate Cause. In most lawsuits, and in most causes of action there is a requirement for proximate cause. Proximate cause requires that the actions of the defendant caused the damage to the plaintiff or the victim. There are specific jury instructions that address this issue. However, in Consumer Fraud Trials the standard/burden has been lowered by the New Jersey courts.
There is only a requirement for a Causal Nexus. New Jersey courts have held that this is a lower standard than the regular proximate cause requirements. In my opinion, a plaintiff, trial attorney presenting a case to a jury should argue that there is a connection between the defendant’s conduct and the plaintiff’s damages. This connection can be removed so long as there is some nexus. And, this nexus must have at least partially resulted in damages.
These issues must be addressed generally in the opening statement. And prior to the opening statement the lawyers are required submit briefs, proposed jury instructions and other motions to the court to address issues to shorten the length of the trial. During the trial there can be lengthy, numerous breaks to address evidentiary and procedural issues. The judge must address these evidentiary and procedural issues pursuant with the court rules and the rules of evidence. This is a significant factor and why jury trials take a long time to complete. There are frequent breaks based on proper, evidentiary and procedural objections in a trial. The parties have an experienced attorney and it is the attorney’s obligation to comply with the court rules to protect the client.
Consumer Fraud Trials provide the opportunity for a victimized consumer to prove a case against the defendant, and prove the defendant has engaged in a deceptive practice. The plaintiff must demonstrate there was a deceptive practice, that the deceptive practice led to an injury, and the plaintiff sustained an injury or an ascertainable loss. Without this ascertainable loss there can be no claim that succeeds nor awarded by a jury. The judge must approve the claimed ascertainable loss. Usually, at the end of the plaintiff’s presentation the defendant will object to the case going forward claiming there is no ascertainable loss. The defendant must demonstrate that assuming everything the plaintiff has put into evidence and presented to a jury that can be no question as to the absence of an ascertainable loss.
The judge makes this conclusion, one way or the other, and either dismisses the case or permits it to proceed.
Finally, a jury would get a case to decide after the judge has explained what the law is and how they should apply the law.
The jury is the trier of the fact. The jury makes determination on the factual disputes as to what the facts floor. Each side presents the facts and a jury determines whose facts are proper and correct. The jury then applies those facts to the law as explained by the judge