A slip-and-fall accident plaintiff in Missouri sought a retrial after learning that a juror who weighed her case engaged in misconduct by Googling the weather on the exact day of her injury. The Missouri Supreme Court, in its review of Smotherman v. Cass Regional Medical Center, ruled that while litigants are entitled to a fair trial, “No court can guarantee a perfect trial.”
That said, juror misconduct is not a recent problem. Even though jurors have strict instructions not to seek information outside what they are given in the courtroom, some still do so anyway. It has become easier in recent years, however, as the internet and smartphones have given us easy, instant access to almost any sliver of information we’d ever want to know. Jurors also have the ability to instantly communicate with friends and send out texts, tweets, Facebook posts, blogs and more in between breaks. This has meant that outside influence on jurors is not just a problem on big, high-profile cases.
Although sequestration – or keeping jurors isolated during trial – is sometimes used in serious, high-profile criminal cases, it’s not economically feasible to do it in civil lawsuits. That means your personal injury attorney needs to be vigilant about recognizing it and calling it out. The sooner it can be addressed, the better. Continue reading