Typically, when people hurt in car accidents file lawsuits, they will ask juries to decide issues of liability and damages. Juries are expected it issue impartial and reasoned verdicts. If a party suspects that a juror harbors a bias, then it can move to have a juror dismissed or a ruling overturned. In a recent opinion, a Florida appellate court explained the proper steps for identifying and contending with juror bias in a case arising out of a car crash. If you were harmed in a collision in Florida, it is advisable to talk to an assertive Florida car accident attorney to discuss what claims you may be able to pursue.
The Accident and Subsequent Trial
Allegedly, the defendant’s bus driver struck the plaintiffs while they were crossing a street. The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the defendant, arguing it was vicariously liable for the acts of its driver. The defendant admitted liability but disputed the plaintiffs’ damages. The case proceeded to trial, and the jury issued a verdict granting the plaintiffs approximately seven and a half million dollars. After the verdict was issued, the defendant learned that two of the jurors misrepresented their prior level of involvement in civil litigation. Thus, the defendant moved for a new trial, arguing juror misconduct. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion without conducting an evidentiary hearing, and the defendant appealed.
Identifying and Addressing Juror Bias
A touchstone of the right to a fair trial is a jury capable and willing to decide a case based on the evidence presented. Thus, the voir dire process through which attorneys screen potential jurors is essential as it allows attorneys to ask jurors questions that may uncover potential bias. If a juror commits misconduct by failing to answer a question correctly, though, and the deceit is not uncovered until after the trial, the fairness of the entire trial may be in question.
To obtain a new trial on the basis of juror misconduct during the selection process, a party must show that the juror failed to truthfully answer a significant question on voir dire and that the juror’s accurate response would provide a valid basis for a challenge for cause. In other words, if a juror’s failure to correctly answer a question suggests the juror’s inability to evaluate the evidence at trial, then the fairness of the trial has been impugned.
When juror misconduct comes to light after a trial, an evidentiary hearing is not required if all of the evidence needed to decide whether a new trial is necessary is in the record. A court must investigate alleged misconduct when the party moving for a new trial sets forth adequate evidence to show a lack of impartiality. In the subject case, the appellate court ultimately ruled that the trial court erred in failing to conduct an evidentiary and remanded the matter for a hearing.
Meet with a Seasoned Florida Attorney
Jurors ruling on a car accident case are not expected to be perfect, but they should be impartial, and when they are not, it can lead to complications. If you were injured in a collision, you may be able to pursue compensation and should meet with an attorney to discuss your case. Attorney Jarrett Blakeley is adept at handling cases arising out of Florida car accidents and if you hire him, he will craft compelling arguments in favor of your recovery of damages. Mr. Blakeley can be reached through the online form or at (800) 602-5000 to set up a conference.