Florida Court Discusses Pre-Emptive Juror Challenges in a Truck Accident Case

Many civil litigants choose to try their cases before a judge rather than a jury. As such, they must select jurors before the trial. Part of jury selection involves assessing whether any prospective juror is implicitly or explicitly biased and lacks the ability to come to an objective decision. If a prospective juror demonstrates bias, either party may exercise pre-emptive challenges to prevent them from becoming a juror. The right to exercise pre-emptive challenge is critical, and if a court neglects to uphold a party’s right, it could result in an unjust verdict. This was demonstrated recently in a verdict issued in a Florida case arising out of a truck collision. If you were hurt in a crash with a tractor-trailer, it is smart to meet with a Cape Coral truck accident lawyer about your options for seeking damages.

Historical Background of the Case

It is alleged that the decedent was driving through a construction zone on a highway behind the defendant driver. The defendant driver suddenly veered into the opposite lane of travel where the defendant trucker was approaching and struck the side of the truck. This caused the truck to swerve and collide with the decedent’s car. The defendant suffered fatal harm in the accident. His wife then filed negligence claims against the defendants.

Reportedly, during the process of selecting a jury, the plaintiff attempted to challenge a prospective juror who stated her husband had worked as a trucker. The court denied the plaintiff’s challenge on the grounds that the jury was the only Black member of the panel, and the court found that the plaintiff had not met Florida’s race-neutral test. The plaintiff objected again prior to trial, but the court upheld its decision. The jury issued a verdict in favor of the plaintiff but determined that the defendant trucker was not at fault. The plaintiff then moved for a new trial, and the court granted her request. The defendants appealed.

Harm Caused by the Denial of Pre-Emptive Challenges

In Florida, appellate courts review a trial court’s choice to grant a new trial for an abuse of discretion. The discretion granted to a trial court declines as questions become increasingly legal in nature, however. Here, the trial court stated that it granted the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial, in part, due to its finding that it failed to apply the correct standard when it rejected the plaintiff’s pre-emptive challenge.

The appellate court stated that as the trial court’s decision was legal in nature, it must review the matter de novo. Further, as the objection to the plaintiff’s pre-emptive challenge was based on race, the appellate court had to determine whether the basis for the challenge was merely pretext. Ultimately, the appellate court found that the trial court erred in denying the plaintiff the right to use her pre-emptive strike but stated that the error did not necessitate a new trial.

Meet with a Capable Florida Truck Accident Lawyer

Tractor-trailer collisions frequently cause fatal injuries, and anyone who lost a loved one in a truck accident has the right to seek compensation. The capable Cape Coral truck accident lawyers of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. are skilled at navigating the complexities of pursuing claims against trucking companies and truck drivers, and if you engage our services, we will zealously advocate on your behalf.  You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at 800-283-7442 to set up a conference.

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