Split Decisions in Three Eighth-Grade Mock Trails

Deliberating in the Middle School
Deliberating in the Middle School

Three eighth-grade juries came to different verdicts in mock trials that centered around a case where a customer was burned by coffee served by a fictitious coffee shop, and sued for damages. After hearing from witnesses in the case, the juries had to decide who was at fault, the plaintiff (Lee Cavanaugh, the coffee drinker) or the defendant (Cup of Joe, the business who sold the beverage).

According to Middle School History and Global Studies Teacher Andrew Syfu, jurors were tasked with deciding if the defendant was negligent from a legal perspective, and if the shop was strictly liable for the injuries sustained by Mr. Cavanaugh.

After careful deliberation, juries came to divergent conclusions, Mr. Syfu said. “However, all juries believed both sides were at fault for the coffee spillage.” One jury ruled in favor of the defendant (Cup of Joe), and the other two juries ruled in favor of the plaintiff (Lee Cavanaugh).

A snowball fight that followed was "a very civil fight," according to Mr. Syfu.
A snowball fight that followed was “a very civil fight,” according to Mr. Syfu.

Mr. Syfu explained the academic significance of the mock trial as a way to give students a better understanding of our legal system, while increasing confidence in critical thinking, reasoning, and presentation skills. “The experience also helps students understand the role of government in resolving disputes,” he added. Finally, the students are asked to assess how their team worked together. 

As an amusing aside, after the first day of witness testimony, students left Whitaker-Bement and blew off a little steam by hurling snowballs at one another. As Mr. Syfu noted, “(I)t was a very civil fight!”

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