The Florida Rules of Civil Procedure have been amended by the Florida Supreme Court to remove the limit on the number of alternate jurors in civil trials. Effective January 1, 2017, Rule 1.431 has been amended to read “The court may direct that 1 or more jurors be impaneled to sit as alternate jurors in addition to the regular panel.” Currently the rule imposes a limit of two alternate jurors in a civil case. See, In re Amendments to Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, 199 So.3d 867 (Fla. 2016). This brings rule 1.431 into conformity with the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure which do not have a limit on the number of alternate jurors in a criminal trial. See, Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.280.
In addition, the amendment to Rule 1.431 provides that when a party believes that grounds exist for a post-trial legal challenge to a jury’s verdict in a civil case, the time to file a motion to interview a member of the jury to investigate any potential improprieties is increased from 10 to 15 days.
November 29th, 2016
This month, in a case of first impression in Florida, the Fourth District Court of Appeal held that statements posted by a juror on social media during trial were insufficiently prejudicial to require a new trial. The juror posted a series of tweets on his Twitter account during jury selection and trial which included: a) “I got picked as a juror … I hate this s___. I’m so pissed, I even half assed all my answers and I dressed terrible;” b) Being a juror isn’t bad, people I’m working with are pretty cool. But I still hate the fact that I have to be here all day;” and c) Everyone is so money hungry that they’ll do anything for it.”
These tweets were clearly improper and in violation of the trial court’s repeated instructions to the jury. Nevertheless, after four post-trial hearings and a juror interview, the trial court took no action against the juror and denied the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. The Fourth District affirmed, finding no abuse of discretion by the trial court.
In Murphy v. Roth, 2016 WL 5803658 (Fla 4th DCA Oct. 5, 2016), the court wrote, “There is no evidence that any of the other jurors saw, or had any discussions about, Juror 5’s tweets. Moreover, nothing in the plain language of Juror 5’s tweets discusses any facts specific to this case or the parties involved. Thus, it cannot be said that the trial court abused its discretion in concluding that Juror 5 misinterpreted the scope of the trial court’s instruction not to post about his jury service and that he did not intentionally violate the court’s order. While Juror 5’s tweets are potentially offensive on a number of levels, the trial court acted within its discretion to interview Juror 5, assess his credibility and, in doing so, deny Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial based thereon.”
October 31st, 2016
A jury verdict was reversed earlier this month due to juror misconduct when the foreperson used his Iphone to look up the definition of “prudent” on Encarta during a break in the jury’s deliberations. In Tapanes v. State, 35 FLW D2031A (Fla 4 DCA 2010) the court wrote: “Although here we confront new frontiers in technology, that being the instant access to a dictionary by a smartphone, the conduct complained of by the appellant is not all novel or unusual. It has been a long-standing rule of law that jurors should not consider external information outside of the presence of the defendant, the state, and the trial court.” The court cited earlier Florida cases holding that a dictionary is not one of the materials permitted to be taken into the jury room. See, Smith v. State, 95 So. 2d 525 (Fla. 1957).
September 20th, 2010