Sloat v. Puchalski
Allegations that jurors discussed the evidence, prior to the charge to the jury, and deliberated only 3.5 hours may be insufficient to prove juror misconduct. In October 2009, the plaintiff, Jonathan Sloat, allegedly was injured in a motor-vehicle accident. Sloat did not accept medical assistance at the scene and drove himself home. Later that week, he requested medical treatment and claimed that he suffered a concussion, fibromyalgia and post traumatic stress disorder. The plaintiff's medical expenses were about $98,000. The plaintiff sued Geico Insurance Co. for underinsured-motorist benefits. The jury decided that the plaintiff failed to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant driver's negligence proximately caused his injuries. The plaintiff moved to set aside and argued that the jury began to deliberate prior to the completion of trial. Allegedly, the alternates remained in the courtroom, after the court excused them. The court completed its charge to the jury at 12:11 p.m., and the jury requested the police report at 12:35 p.m. The jury returned its verdict at 3:38 p.m. The court found that the plaintiff failed to provide enough evidence to support his allegations of juror misconduct. "The basis upon which the plaintiff makes the assertion of juror misconduct," wrote the court, "is insufficient for the court to make further inquiry." The plaintiff also alleged that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, because his attorney ignored the plaintiff's instructions to object, when evidence was not summarized properly or witnesses were misquoted. There was no motion for mistrial or request for curative instructions. "[N]othing occurred during argument," wrote the court, "that would justify the court to inject itself into the case in the absence of an objection." Even if the plaintiff's attorney had objected and the objections had been sustained, the court could not find that the result would have been different. The plaintiff failed to establish "newly discovered evidence" could not have been discovered earlier, if due diligence had been exercised. The court denied the plaintiff's motion to set aside the verdict.