Doctor’s Errors Leave Sacramento-area Parents Distraught, Part 4 of 9

(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the proceedings.)

Defendant urges that we adopt what amounts to a rigid rule that prejudicial misconduct cannot be cured either by jury self-admonition or by admonitions from the trial court. Such a contention ignores the very purpose of permitting and requiring jury deliberations: through group discussion of the law and the evidence, our common law system trusts that jurors who express wrong ideas about the evidence, the law, and their duty as jurors will be guided to a correct view of the case. In the absence of an opportunity for jurors to express such wrong conceptions and thereafter change their thinking, a jury trial might just as well conclude with the submission of ballots from the jury box at the close of the case.
Romo v. Ford Motor Co., (2002) 99 Cal. App. 4th 1115, 1130.

Plaintiff asserts two additional instances of alleged jury misconduct. The first of these rests upon a discussion by jurors of the source of money to pay a potential judgment. Plaintiff suggests that discussion of where the money for the judgment was to come from was somehow tied to the jury’s impression that defendant was a nice guy. Hence, plaintiff suggests the jury declined to find defendant liable because if was concerned about the financial impact a verdict would have upon him.

Looking to the affidavits we find the following references: Juror Smith states that one juror asked where the money would come from if the verdict was in favor of the plaintiff, whereupon several of the jurors discussed this subject; Juror Michela states that some of the jurors wondered where the money was going to come from if the jury found in favor of the plaintiff; Michela notes, in a separate paragraph that one male juror… said that David Brunicardi was a nice guy. Other jurors agreed with this statement. We find nothing in these affidavits which is sufficient to establish a bias in favor of defendant or to cause the jury to avoid imposing the financial burden on a judgment upon him. Young v. Brunicardi, (1986) 187 Cal. 3d 1344, 1352.

But in Ballard v. Uribe, (1986) 41 Cal.3d 564 [224 Cal.Rptr. 664, 715 P.2d 624] Justice Mosk, in a concurring opinion, stated as follows: I must express my apprehension at an incipient trend, that of losing parties attempting to impeach jury verdicts. We see this in numerous appeals and petitions for review based on juror affidavits. Giving such appeals and petitions any credence prevents the finality of judgments, places additional burdens on the judicial process, and contributes to disenchantment with the tort system.

Most juror affidavits, demonstrably so in this case, delve into the subjective concerns of the jurors during their deliberations. When deference is given to such affidavits, encouragement is given to opposing counsel in future cases to engage in post-verdict competition to obtain juror affidavits revealing discussions that took place behind the closed doors of the deliberation room. Generally the party with the most resources will win that contest. If affidavits purportedly relating jury discussions are permissible, in the interest of accuracy we may as well install recording devices in jury rooms. [Fn. Omitted.] Di Rosario v. Havens, (1987) 196 Cal.3d 1224, 1237.

Was the verdict so grossly excessive and out of all proportion to the evidence of loss in this case as to require reversal? (See Part 5 of 9.)

For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.

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