The Goldberg Law Firm Co., LPA

The Goldberg Law Firm Co., LPA

call today
Legal Help Nationwide888.637.6463Toll Free Email: steven@goldberglpa.com
call today

Same Juror Rule

The Tenth District released an interesting decision last week dealing with the same juror rule, an issue that rarely surfaces in appellate courts.  In fact, the term was only cited 18 times in Ohio case law.  The Tenth District decision in Dillon v. OhioHealth Corp. highlights the importance of protecting the record during trial court proceedings.  The facts of the case were relatively straight forward.  The plaintiff had psychological issues and was not on his medication.  His concerned father called for medical assistance.  After taking the plaintiff to the hospital, and in trying to sedate him, the hospital staff held the plaintiff down forcefully.  After a day, the plaintiff started demonstrating signs of paralysis.  As noted, the jury trial took about a month and included 60 outside depositions.  

The jury initially found that the defendant breached its duty to the plaintiff, but only two of the eight jurors would have signed the interrogatory finding that the negligence was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries.  That would have resulted in a defense verdict.  In Ohio, 3/4 of the jury must find liability in a civil trial.  The trial court, believing that this violated the "same juror rule" in Ohio, instructed the jury to re-deliberate.  The "same juror rule" applies in cases where comparative negligence (the plaintiff's negligence in creating his own injuries) must be determined.  However, if only 6/8 jurors find that the a defendant is negligent and proximately caused the plaintiff's injury, those same six must determine whether the plaintiff was comparatively negligent.  It creates an inconsistent verdict to have the two jurors who determined no liability existed to resolve who is liable for the damages.  After returning to its deliberation, the jury came back with a plaintiff's verdict, a significant one totaling $2,866,521.35.  In speaking with the jurors after the verdict was entered, the defendant became aware of the "first verdict."  Over a year later, the case finalized for the purposes of appellate review, with the trial court striking the jury interrogatories.  The Tenth easily determined the "same juror rule" wasn't an issue in the Dillon case.  Comparative negligence was never an issue before the jury.

The tough part is demonstrating juror error.  Typically, any jury issues are difficult to resolve because most of the information is outside the record.  Upon learning of the mistake with the jury's "first verdict," the defendants sought to preserve the original signed interrogatory.  This created a record upon which the error could be fixed.  Unfortunately, the only "fix" is to remand for a new trial.  Given the scope and complexity of the first trial, it hardly can be deemed a total win for either party.  The case highlights the importance of preserving anything in the record that may be necessary to seek a new trial or upon appeal for plaintiffs and defendants alike; to the trial court's credit, the judge ensured the original interrogatory remained in the record after learning of the error.  Without the original jury interrogatory, it is likely that the appellate court would have had little to work with in resolving the issues.