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Jury Misconduct

It is often said that if the process if fair, the result will be just. Unfortunately, the process is not always fair and when it is not, our New York car and truck accident lawyers challenge the result. In Hutchinson v. Clare Rose, our New York car and truck accident lawyers obtained a jury verdict which we considered inadequate. After the verdict, the our attorneys learned that one of the jurors who was a physical therapist, disregarded the testimony of the Plaintiff’s doctor, a neurologist, based upon his own beliefs that the injury was not significant. We also learned that the jury was persuaded by this one juror’s views.

After learning about the juror misconduct, the attorneys brought the misconduct to the Court’s attention and demanded that a mistrial be declared or that the Court hold a hearing to document what had occurred. The trial Court, which was the Nassau Supreme Court found after conversations with the jury that the jury did disregard the jury instructions, but the Court did not order a mistrial.

Our car and truck accident lawyers filed an appeal and challenged the trial Court’s decision to the Supreme Court Appellate Division of the Second Department. The Appellate Court held that it was reversible error for the trial judge to discuss matters going to the heart of the deliberative process with a juror without making a record of such conversation, thereby frustrating proper appellate review. The Appellate Court also held that the trial judge committed reversible error by concluding that a substantial breach of her instructions to the juror had occurred, and simultaneously denying the plaintiff’s request to make a proper record to facilitate subsequent judicial and appellate review. More specifically, the Appellate Court recognized that the trial Court’s errors irreparably impaired the ability of our New York car and truck accident lawyers to make a proper post-judgment motion to set aside the verdict due to juror misconduct. The Court also held that the trial judge made it impossible to determine if the alleged juror misconduct improperly influenced the deliberative process and based upon the cumulative effect of these errors, reversed the trial court and ordered a new trial. After the case was remanded, a significant settlement was reached.

The Appellate Court also found that the trial court’s error was not harmless because the use of personal expertise by a juror, if communicated to other members of the jury panel, may have constituted such misconduct as to warrant a new trial. This was the first time that this particular unusual circumstance occurred and our personal injury attorneys are proud that we were able to further the law in a manner that protects the basic fairness of the litigation process to those who suffer personal injury in accidents. Our attorneys will continue to advocate for the rights of those injured in accidents and will continue to challenge errors in the trial courts which negatively effect our client’s rights and will fight to prevent bad decisions from becoming bad law.

The Law Offices of Michael H. Joseph