In jury trials, it’s the judge’s role to determine preliminary legal issues, but it is the jury’s role to make factual conclusions. The jury, in other words, decides what actually happened. As a result, jury selection is a key aspect of trials on a wide variety of matters, including car accidents, as the Third District Court of Appeal’s recent decision in Borroto v. Garcia makes clear.
Norma Borroto was injured in an accident in Florida when the car in which she was a passenger was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Jose Garcia. She sued Garcia in state court seeking money damages. During jury selection, the trial judge asked each of the prospective jurors whether they had ever suffered an injury – in a car accident or otherwise – which required the person to seek medical treatment.
As the process continued, counsel for Garcia used peremptory challenges, by which each party may choose certain potential jurors to exclude from the jury, to remove all but one member of the jury pool who had previously been injured in accidents and had required treatment.
Following trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Borroto, awarding her more than $105,000 in damages.
Garcia filed a motion for new trial along with a motion requesting to interview the jury members, alleging that two of them failed to disclose that they had previously been involved in car accidents. Both of these jurors, according to Garcia, suffered injuries for which they sought medical attention and filed claims under Florida’s personal injury protection (PIP) law. The trial court denied both motions.
On appeal, the Third District reversed and remanded the decision in part, ruling that Garcia should be permitted to interview the jurors. “A juror interview is warranted if the moving party demonstrates reasonable grounds to believe that nondisclosure of relevant and material information occurred,” the Court explained, citing the Second District’s 2011 opinion in State Farm v. Lawrence. Here, the Court found that Garcia presented sufficient evidence indicating that the two jurors did not disclose their previous accident history. “Mr. Garcia was entitled to conduct juror interviews and inquire whether the identified jurors concealed relevant and material information,” the Court held.
As this case shows, jury selection is an incredibly important aspect of a Florida car accident lawsuit and the questions posed to potential jurors can ultimately play a role in the outcome of the case. The jury selection process is intended to weed out those potential jurors who may have preconceived biases which make them unable to fairly weigh the evidence and consider the allegations in a specific case.
If you have been injured in a car accident in Florida, it is important to consult an experienced attorney, not only to consider your options, but also to ensure the strongest possible legal representation in the event a lawsuit goes to trial. The South Florida car accident lawyers at Anidjar & Levine represent clients throughout the area, including in Pompano Beach, Hialeah and Hollywood. Call the Fort Lauderdale office today at 800-747-3733.
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