The majority of slip-and-fall lawsuits in Florida are settled prior to trial. Many commercial premises liability policies provide millions in coverage, and sometimes companies want to just settle and move on. But of course, the dynamics are different with every case, and your slip-and-fall attorney needs to be prepared to take a case to trial if necessary.
In a recent case before the Mississippi Supreme Court, plaintiff in a slip-and-fall case was actually seeking a second trial, after the first ended in a verdict favorable to defendant. The question for the court was whether the fact that a convicted felon served on that jury should prompt a second trial. Among the many rights felons lose upon conviction is the right to serve on a jury.
The trial court agreed that this alone was enough to warrant a a new trial. However, the state supreme court disagreed and reversed that order.
According to court records, this case was somewhat unusual in that the actual incident occurred almost 30 years ago, in 1989, when plaintiff was just 3-years-old. Plaintiff reportedly suffered a slip-and-fall injury in defendant’s grocery store, where he struck his head.
After plaintiff reached the age of majority, he filed a lawsuit against defendant company, alleging the company’s negligence caused the floor to be slippery. He also alleged that the slip-and-fall had left with significant traumatic and permanent injuries to his brand, resulting in profound and permanent deficits.
The case ultimately went to a trial before 12 jurors, all of whom ultimately agreed defendant store had been negligent. However, a majority nine held that defendant’s negligence was not the cause of plaintiff’s injuries – which is a critical factor in obtaining damages in an injury lawsuit.
Trial judge issued a final verdict in favor of defendants.
In a post-trial motion, plaintiff’s conservator alleged the juror foreperson was in fact a convicted felon, meaning that according to state statute and case law, he was not qualified as a juror. For this reason, he argued the verdict should be reversed and a new trial granted.
Trial judge found this argument had merit, noting a 1997 state supreme court case in which the court reversed and remanded a criminal conviction after one of the jurors failed to reveal he was a convicted felon.
Here, the juror in question was the foreperson, who has significant responsibility in presiding over deliberations and making sure the verdict rendered to the court is the proper one. The only people who know what took place in the jury room were the jurors, but the plaintiff had no opportunity to challenge the foreperson’s convicted felon status. The judge did not defendant had no role in creating this prejudice, and that he would have issued the same ruling if the verdict had been in favor of plaintiff.
Defendant appealed to the state supreme court, raising three questions – one of those being whether the presumption of prejudice is fair in civil cases which, unlike criminal cases, don’t require unanimous jury decisions.
The court ruled firstly that as it pertains to case law, there was nothing to suggest that every violation of the provision barring convicted felons as jurors would rise to the level of a constitutional violation. Secondly, plaintiff never made any claim of a constitutional violation, which means the order for a new trial was not warranted. The court did not reach the decision of whether civil trials require the same presumption of prejudice as criminal matters.
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Roberts Company, Inc. v. Moore, March 2, 2017, Mississippi Supreme Court
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Family Files Daycare Lawsuit After Baby Suffers Brain Injury, Feb. 27, 2017, Orlando Slip and Fall Injury Lawyer