Florida Appellate Court Rules on Issue of Jury Selection

The Florida District Court of Appeal recently considered a case in which the plaintiff experienced brain damage and permanent disability as a result of medical negligence. The case illustrates the importance of having a good attorney on your side. The plaintiff was incapacitated after a doctor punctured his carotid artery while performing a catheterization procedure. The plaintiff’s guardian filed a lawsuit against the doctor on his behalf.

Before the trial, the court asked the parties’ attorneys to conduct a pre-qualification of the prospective jurors by directing them to answer written questions. The ninth question asked jurors whether they or their family members had ever been a party to a lawsuit. Two jurors answered no.

After a verdict for the plaintiffs, the doctor’s attorney investigated the jurors’ backgrounds. He moved to interview the two jurors who had answered no to the question about prior lawsuit involvement. When he learned that the two jurors had concealed their prior litigation experience when being questioned during the jury selection process, he moved for a new trial.

The trial court determined that the information withheld by the jurors was not material and did not grant a new trial. The Florida appellate court stated that the relevant three-part test was in a prior case called De La Rose v. Zequerira. The doctor’s attorney needed to show (1) that the information was relevant and material to serving on the jury, (2) that the juror concealed the information, and (3) that the jury’s failure to disclose the information could not be attributed to the complaining party’s own lack of diligence.

As to the first prong of the test, the appellate court noted that materiality could be determined by asking whether the party complaining about the concealment would have likely objected to that juror’s service, if the information had not been concealed. This determination must be made on a case-by-case basis.

The two jurors had been party to multiple prior lawsuits. But both were defendants. The trial court did not find this material because there was no evidence that the jurors were biased towards the medical malpractice plaintiff based on their experience. The doctor’s attorney had accepted another juror with similar prior experience.

The doctor argued on appeal that he would have moved to strike the two jurors because their prior litigation history showed they might not be honest or trustworthy. He also argued that whether the jurors were biased did not matter to the question of materiality. The plaintiff argued that other prospective jurors were not questioned or struck as a result of their prior litigation experience, including experience that showed they might be dishonest.

The appellate court concluded that none of the lawsuits in which the jurors were involved were similar to a medical malpractice or even a personal injury lawsuit. It reasoned that the doctor had not demonstrated that his knowledge of the lawsuits would have resulted in him striking the two jurors.

While the appellate court agreed that the bias of the challenged juror was not relevant, it did matter whether the juror’s alleged bias would likely lead to a strike. The appellate court ruled that the trial did not abuse its discretion in determining that the doctor’s attorney could not meet the first prong of the three-part test. It affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

A good trial attorney understands the art of jury selection. If you or a loved one have been injured and suffered due to a medical professional’s negligence or carelessness, call the experienced South Florida medical malpractice attorneys of Friedman, Rodman & Frank for a consultation at 877-448-8585. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All consultations are free and confidential.

Florida Workers’ Comp Limitation Ruled Unconstitutional, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, April 26, 2013
Florida Appellate Court Overturns Summary Judgment on Minor’s Medical Malpractice Claim, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, April 22, 2013

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