Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Jury Compromise Not Sufficient to Set Aside Judgment

In Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. v. Pierre, 18 So. 3d 700 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009) (4D08-2414), the Fourth District affirmed the trial court's decision that the jury deliberations were not tainted.

After a day of deliberations, the jury was sent home for the weekend. On Monday they returned and quickly reached a verdict. Ten days later, the jury foreperson filed an affidavit stating that the jury was deadlocked 3-3, however, the 3 jurors against finding liability agreed to find liability if the other three jurors agreed to only award 50% of the damages.

A trial court’s denial of a new trial for alleged improprieties in the verdict is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. State v. Hamilton, 574 So. 2d 124, 126 (Fla. 1981). “Jury compromise may occur when certain jurors agree to find liability as long as the damages award is small….” Rochelle v. State Dept. of Corrections, 927 So. 2d 997, 999 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006).


What allegedly occurred during jury deliberations in the present case does not rise to the level of reaching a verdict by aggregate or by lot. The jury negotiated a verdict by means of normal give and take, and the foreperson’s affidavit stating that two groups of jurors reached a compromise regarding the amount of damages and proportional liability merely recounts a matter that inheres in the verdict.
This opinion was clarified as discussed HERE.


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