When Jurors Want to Quarantine Mid-Trial…

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A BigLaw civil jury trial finished yesterday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The first phase was a 12-day trial that began October 1 and concluded on October 22 with a verdict of $21 million in compensatory damages for the plaintiff. A punitive damage phase began—and ended—yesterday.

At some point before the punitive phase, the judge excused Juror #1 because of “COVID-19 exposure,” according to a filing by the defendant. Yesterday morning, the defendant moved for a mistrial based on the change of composition of the jury. In the alternative, the defendant sought a mistrial “on the grounds that the Court improperly [dismissed Juror #1] without providing the interested parties the opportunity to participate in the examination of the impact of the juror’s excusal for quarantine for COVID-19.”

The judge let the trial go forward, with a plan to take up the motion for a mistrial before the jury deliberated. Opening statements, evidence, closing arguments and jury charge were all accomplished over a five-hour period. Then the court denied the motion for a mistrial—but it looks like an appellate court will never review this one. After deliberating for just over an hour, the jury returned with a verdict of zero punitive damages.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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