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COA orders hearing to determine juror bias against plaintiff

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that a trial court should have ordered an evidentiary hearing to determine whether a juror in an auto accident case was biased against the plaintiff instead of ordering a new trial regarding damages.

Larry Clemons sued Lloyd Diehl for damages after an auto accident in which Diehl admitted to rear-ending Clemons’ car. Diehl denied that the collision caused Clemons any damages.

After a two-day trial, the court awarded Clemons zero dollars in damages. Clemons filed a motion to correct error, pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 59(A). He alleged that Juror No. 289 had committed misconduct when he failed to state on his juror questionnaire that nearly 12 years earlier he had been a defendant in a civil lawsuit that arose from a vehicular collision.

The trial court agreed with Clemons, concluding the juror was biased or prejudiced against Clemons because the juror had been named as a civil defendant in a prior auto accident case and Clemons’ counsel, unaware of the previous case, during voir dire spoke favorably of the attorney who had represented the plaintiff in the juror’s case. The court ordered a new trial on the question of damages.

In Lloyd J. Diehl v. Larry J. Clemons, 45A04-1309-CT-460, the appeals court reversed. The judges agreed with Diehl that the trial court’s order fails to explain sufficiently why the jury verdict must be set aside as inadequate.  They noted that the trial court order failed to seriously address the litany of evidence brought forth by Diehl’s counsel in his cross-examination of Clemons’ witnesses. The trial court’s failure to assess this and other opposing evidence and relate it to the question of damages is reversible error.

The judges agreed that Juror No. 289’s response on the questionnaire failed to disclose a material fact, which concealed a potential source of bias against Clemons. But the possibility of bias or prejudice alone is not enough to set aside a jury verdict.

The trial court should have ordered an evidentiary hearing instead of ordering a new trial based on juror misconduct, the COA ruled.

The judges remanded with instructions for the court to hold this evidentiary hearing to determine whether Juror No. 289 was in fact biased or prejudiced against Clemons.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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