In Hillsboro Management v. Pagono, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals explains that honesty isn’t just the best policy for the parties in a personal injury lawsuit, but also for the jurors being considered to weigh in on any particular case.
Ms. Tremblay was 98 years old when she was admitted to Living Legends Retirement Center in Deerfield Beach. Although an admission chart indicated that she did not need help walking or standing, Tremblay fell several times shortly after moving to the center. According to the court, Tremblay fell a total of 19 times over the course of 26 days she was at Living Legends. She suffered a number of serious injuries as a result, but the court said the evidence was unclear as to whether these injuries actually caused her death on the 26th day.
Tremblay’s granddaughter, Ms. Pagono, sued Living Legends’ owner (Hillsboro Management) for negligence. She said that the company failed to properly supervise Tremblay and presented evidence at trial of a number of instances in which staff failed to report Tremblay’s condition and did not supervise her, despite knowing she was at risk of falling. A jury later returned a verdict in Pagono’s favor, awarding her more than $145,000 in past medical expenses, $750,000 in non-economic damages and punitive damages in the amount of $1.5 million.
On appeal, Hillsboro argued that it should have been granted a new trial after discovering that a juror – R.F. – did not disclose during jury selection that he had a significant history of litigation. When the trial court asked prospective jurors during the voir dire process whether they had ever been involved in a lawsuit, either as a plaintiff, defendant or witness, R.F. said he had been a party to litigation stemming from a car accident in which his daughter was injured in the 1980s. He later answered “yes” when Hillsboro’s attorney asked R.F. if this was the only litigation in which he’d been involved.
After the verdict, Hillsboro presented documentation showing that R.F. had actually been involved in another 11 lawsuits – including those related to foreclosures and civil damages actions – in Broward County alone. Claiming that it would have used one of its peremptory strikes to exclude R.F. from the jury based on this background, Hillsboro asked for a new trial. The trial court denied the motion.
The Fourth District reversed the decision on appeal, ruling that Hillsboro should have been at least given a chance to interview R.F. after learning of his involvement in other litigation. The court said an interview could help determine whether R.F.’s misrepresentation was material to the case. “Nondisclosure is considered material if it is substantial and important so that if the facts were known, the defense may have been influenced to peremptorily challenge the juror from the jury,” the court explained. The interview could also help determine whether he actively concealed the information during voir dire or instead did not disclose due to Hillsboro’s lack of diligence.
As a result, the court reversed the decision for reconsideration of the company’s motion for new trial following an interview.
Jury selection is one of many crucial aspects of litigating a personal injury or wrongful death claim. If you are interested in pursuing these or other claims, it is important to have a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer in your corner. Contact the South Florida personal injury lawyers at Anidjar & Levine. Representing clients throughout the region, including in Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton and Hialeah, we pride ourselves on providing responsive, diligent and cost-effective services. Please take advantage of a free consultation offered by contacting the firm’s offices at 800-747-3733 or online.
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