Florida Court of Appeal Orders Juror Interview Following Car Accident Verdict

In Barrios v. Locastro, two women were involved in a motor vehicle collision in Florida. As a result, one of the drivers apparently suffered a neck injury. Following two surgeries designed to correct her neck harm, the hurt woman filed a personal injury action against the other driver in a Florida court.

During jury selection, prospective members of the panel were asked to raise their hand if they or any of their close family members was ever a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit or settlement. In addition, they were also asked to indicate whether they had ever suffered from certain back injuries or sought disability payments in the past. After the defendant used each of her peremptory juror challenges, two jurors who indicated their family members were previously involved in an auto collision were placed on the jury.

Following trial, the jurors determined each driver’s level of comparative negligence related to the crash. The jury ultimately attributed 25 percent of the plaintiff’s harm to the defendant and also stated she caused 75 percent of her injuries. After that, the defendant learned one of the empaneled jurors who did not respond in the affirmative to either jury selection question had a mother who was a current plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit and a father who collected Social Security disability payments. As a result, the defendant asked the trial court to order a new trial and conduct a juror interview. The trial court determined the information at issue was immaterial and denied both of the defendant’s motions.

On appeal before Florida’s Fourth District, the defendant claimed the trial court committed error when it refused to grant a new trial or conduct an interview of the juror at issue. The Court of Appeal stated the standard of review related to the defendant’s request for a juror interview was abuse of discretion. After that, the court said Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.431(h) allows a party to a lawsuit the opportunity to request a juror interview if the party believes there may be grounds for challenging a jury’s verdict. Although juror interviews should be used sparingly, the appellate court found that the juror’s purported omission was material, and the trial court abused its discretion when it denied the defendant’s motion.

Since the trial court should have granted the defendant’s motion for a juror interview, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the lower court’s decision and remanded the case with instructions to interview the juror.

If you were hurt in a South Florida car accident, you need a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer on your side. To discuss your rights with a skillful Miami personal injury attorney today, call the caring advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Barrios v. Locastro, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 4th Dist. 2015

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