Fields v. Saunders

A jury returned verdicts in favor of all defendants on plaintiffs' medical malpractice claims. Thereafter, plaintiffs learned that a juror had voluntarily disclosed bias towards plaintiffs' cause of action and plaintiffs' race. Plaintiffs sought a new trial on this and other grounds. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied plaintiffs' motion for new trial. On appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals unanimously rejected all of plaintiffs' grounds for new trial except the claim of juror bias on a majority vote. In rejecting this ground, the majority ruled the juror's post-verdict statements were impermissible impeachment of the jury verdicts. The dissenting judge concluded otherwise, noting the juror's statements were his own public, voluntary statements (not related by other jurors) and revealed the juror was intent on serving on the case with a predisposition to an outcome adverse to the plaintiffs. Upon review, the Supreme Court vacated the Court of Civil Appeals' opinion: "the juror in question entertained bias against the plaintiffs' race and their right to recover under the appropriate burden of proof. In reaching this conclusion, [the Court] first note[ed] that this [was] not a case where dissenting or minority jurors are attempting to impeach a verdict with which they do not agree by breaching the sanctity of the jury deliberations. This [was] a case where a juror voluntarily revealed, after verdicts were returned, that (1) the juror entertained disqualifying bias against one party's race and right to recover under the appropriate burden of proof, and (2) deliberately concealed such bias upon voir dire in order to participate in rendering verdicts consistent with such bias." The Supreme Court remanded the case for a new trial. View "Fields v. Saunders" on Justia Law

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