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Posts filed under 'Rehabilitation'

Cause Challenges for Caps On Damages and Rising Insurance Rates

This week, in Rodriguez v. Lagomasino, 972 So. 2d 1050 (Fla 3rd DCA 2008) the Third District Court of Appeal reversed a defense verdict in an auto accident case because the trial judge failed to strike two questionable jurors for cause. During voir dire, prospective Juror Gutierrez said he would not favor either side and would be “in the middle,” but he had also said his wife had been in an auto accident and his insurance company was going double his rates. He said he did not know if he could put his wife’s situation aside. Another prospective juror, Mr. Hillberry said he thought there should be caps on damages because of all the frivolous lawsuits in our litigious society. Juror Hillberry said he doubted his “thoughts” would come into play in this particular case, but he admitted it was possible they could. The Miami trial judge, Daryl Trawick, refused to strike the jurors for cause because “based upon their responses” he felt “they were rehabilitated.”

The Third District reversed based on Florida law’s well established “reasonable doubt” standard, and cited Nash v. General Motors Corp. 734 So. 2d 437 (Fla 3d DCA 1999), “When any reasonable doubt exists as to whether a juror possesses the state of mind necessary to render an impartial verdict based solely on the evidence submtted and the instructions on the law given to her by the court, she should be excused.”

1 comment January 26th, 2008

Voir Dire and Comparative Fault

Last week, in Algie v. Lennar Corp., 969 So. 2d 1135 (Fla 4th DCA 2007) the 4th District Court of Appeal reversed a defense verdict in a slip and fall case. A juror had told the lawyers during jury selection that although he wouldn’t have any problem “serving fairly” if chosen, he believed that in every slip and fall case the person who slips and falls is at least partially responsible. The juror said this would factor into his decision in the case and would be something the plaintiff would have to overcome in order to prevail.

Referring back to the seminal Supreme Court decision of Singer v. State, 109 So.2d 7 (Fla 1959), and its progeny, the court observed that although the juror in this case subsequently stated he believed he could be fair, the juror never recanted or receded from his earlier expressed view. The court held that any “ambiguities or uncertainties” concerning a juror’s impartiality must be resolved in favor of excusing the juror. Therefore, the defense verdict was reversed.

Add comment November 19th, 2007

Whose Prejudice Is This Anyway?

The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a breach of contract case for failure to excuse a Juror Green for cause who said she  had a “bad taste” from having been sued in the past which would “probably” cause her to view the case with prejudice one way or another. The problem was — Green never did say against whom she would be prejudiced, and none of the attorneys ever followed up during voir dire to find out, and no one ever bothered to ask her whether she could set her “negative feelings” aside. At one point during jury selection the trial judge asked the panel as a whole whether there was anyone on the panel who would not have the parties starting off on the same starting line, like in a race, but none of the prospective jurors responded verbally.

The 4th DCA applied the reasonable doubt standard and reversed the verdict. The Court noted that “while the juror was silent when the court advised the panel that both parties are entitled to ‘start off at the same line’ and inquired of the panel whether they could wait until ‘the end of the race’ to deliberate and determine what the verdict should be, reasonable doubt is not overcome by a juror’s silence as to a question asked on the entire panel.” Four Wood Consulting, LLC v. Fyne, 981 So. 2d 2 (Fla 4th DCA 2007)

Interestingly, the Court also observed: “We recognize that, here, the trial court and the appellees’ counsel may well have been right in surmising that the juror really ‘did not want to be there’ and ‘wanted off this jury.’ But, close issues as to juror bias are resolved in favor of excusing the juror, rather than leaving a doubt.”

1 comment August 24th, 2007