Florida trial lawyer, Guy S. DiMartino, DC, JD discusses when jurors do not fess up to prior lawsuits during jury selection.
One of the keys for any party in a lawsuit is to get a fair and impartial juror to hear their case. Some jurors may have innate biases that stem from life experiences and because of these biases they may just not be the right juror for the specific case. In jury selection attorneys ask questions about prior contact with the legal system and lawsuits to find out what kind of taste the experience has left in the jurors mouth. For instance, if the juror was involved in a similar case and had a bad experience they may favor one party or the other because of their particular experience. The attorneys have a right to know this information so they can make an informed decision about whether or not the prospective juror would be appropriate for the case.
Recently, there have been a number of cases in which jurors have not disclosed past involvement with the legal system and the aggrieved party appealed the case to a higher court claiming that they did not get a fair trial. The Florida Supreme Court has set a standard analysis that courts have to follow when confronted with this issue:
The complaining party has to establish that the information is relevant and material to the jury service. For instance, if the juror was a defendant in a recent car accident case and thought the other party was faking it, and the juror didnt disclose the prior case, a court will find that relevant and material in a motor vehicle accident case.
Next, the complaining party has to show that the juror concealed the information during questioning.
Finally, the complaining party has to show that the juror actually concealed the information and it wasnt the lawyers lack of diligence in questioning the juror.
In Doung v. Ziadie, a patient filed a claim against a cardiologist alleging negligence during an angiogram. The case went to trial and the jury found in favor of the patient. After the trial, Dr. Doungs lawyers discovered that a couple of jurors did not disclose prior involvement with the legal system. One juror had been involved in five lawsuits and another three lawsuits. Some of the lawsuits involved collections, domestic issues and criminal issues. None of the lawsuits involved medical malpractice. Dr. Doungs lawyers asked for a new trial and the court did not grant a new trial finding that the non-disclosure was not material because the party allowed other folks on the jury who had similar issues in the past. Dr. Doungs lawyers appealed this ruling and the Fourth District Court of Appeal agreed with the trial courts ruling affirming the verdict for the patient.
One of the risks of going to trial is not knowing who will be on a prospective jury panel. The jury trial process only works when all people involved in the process are honest and freely exchange information. However, we have to acknowledge that not every participant will do so and this is a risk that a person who makes a personal injury claim has to understand before going to trial. If you have any questions about a Florida personal injury or medical malpractice claim, you can contact me on my cell at 352-267-9168 or fill out the internet consultation form on the right.
photo attribution: author-Beinecke Library