Is a party sufficiently prejudiced by a juror’s nondisclosure to get a new trial?

The following is SM JUROR’s slideshare analysis of Larsen v. Union Pac. R.R. Co., 503 S.W.3d 213 (Mo. Ct. App. 2016), reh’g and/or transfer denied (Sept. 20, 2016).

Plaintiff, a union member, was awarded damages when he fell off a ladder at work.  During voir dire, counsel for the defendant employer asked each venireperson if they were a union member.  Those that answered affirmatively were further questioned.  Juror L5 was a union member, but kept silent.  Subsequent to the verdict, the defendant discovered that Juror L5 was a union member who characterized himself as the informal leader of the jury who would vote for the plaintiff “right off”.  Defendant moved for a new trial asserting it was prejudiced by L5’s nondisclosure of his union membership, especially when specifically asked about it.  At the evidentiary hearing, L5 stated that he forgot he was a union member.  The trial court granted the motion for new trial.

The appellate court outlined their two step approach to evaluate the nondisclosure by a juror, asserting that a juror has a duty to answer questions truthfully.  First, they would review de novo whether the question posed to the juror was sufficiently clear. If the question was clear, then they would determine whether the juror’s nondisclosure was intentional.  The trial court’s findings of whether a juror’s nondisclosure was intentional or unintentional is reviewed under the abuse of discretion standard of review, with the appellate court deferring to the trial court on credibility determinations.

View our slideshare for more detailed information on how the appellate court resolved the juror misconduct issue.

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Don’t let juror misconduct taint your next verdict…