The SCT has issued its opinion in Warger v. Shauers. No surprises here as the Supreme Court upheld the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and ruled in a unanimous decision that juror comments during deliberations cannot be used to show dishonesty during jury selection.
This case arose out of a motor vehicle accident in which a motorcyclists collided with a truck. The motorcyclist (petitioner/plaintiff) lost his leg and then subsequently brought a negligence action against the driver of the truck (respondent/defendant). The jury, after two trials the first of which ended in a mistrial, found in favor of the driver of the truck.
Shortly after the trial, a juror approached plaintiff's counsel and informed him that one juror, the forewoman, refused to decide the case on the evidence submitted. This juror further informed plaintiff's counsel that the forewoman told other jurors during deliberations that her daughter had been at fault in a fatal automobile accident and that had she been sued it would have "ruined her life."
Plaintiff's counsel had the juror complete a sworn affidavit in which he detailed the actions of the forewoman. However, the trial court, citing FRE 606(b), refused to admit the affidavit into evidence. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's decision.
Generally speaking, FRE 606(b), the juror anti-impeachment rule, prohibits the introduction of evidence concerning juror deliberations except for testimony regarding whether an outside influence was used to persuade any juror. FRE 606(b), is in place to: (1) provide verdict finality; (2) encourage jurors to freely express themselves during deliberations; and (3) reduce the amount of post-trial hounding jurors receive from attorneys. Courts of appeal, however, have not been uniform in their application of this rule. This ruling should provide them better guidance.