Voir Dire and Comparative Fault

November 19, 2007

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.

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