APPEAL FROM BOYLE CIRCUIT COURT. HONORABLE DARREN W. PECKLER, JUDGE. ACTION NO. 06-CI-00085.
BRIEF FOR APPELLANT: Larry B. Franklin, Jennifer M. Barbour, Louisville, Kentucky.
BRIEF FOR APPELLEES: Clayton L. Robinson, Adam W. Havens, Lexington, Kentucky.
BEFORE: ACREE, CHIEF JUDGE; TAYLOR AND MOORE, JUDGES.
Jean Crawford appeals the decision of the Boyle Circuit Court to deny her a new trial regarding her medical malpractice claims against appellees, Marshall Emergency Services Associates, PSC, and Dr. Mark Spanier. After careful review, we affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Jean Crawford filed a medical malpractice action in Boyle Circuit Court against Dr. Spanier and Marshall Emergency Services. Following a trial that lasted several days, a jury rendered a verdict in favor of Dr. Spanier and Marshall Emergency Services. Before the circuit court entered judgment consistent with the jury's verdict, Crawford filed a motion asking the circuit court for leave to elicit testimony from the jurors post-verdict. In relevant part, her motion stated:
On Friday, January 28, 2011, at approximately 4:35 p.m., the jury assigned to this [case] was sent to deliberate. At approximately 5:17 p.m., the foreman notified the bailiff that a verdict had been reached. A verdict in favor of Defendant Mark Spanier, M.D. was rendered, with two jurors abstaining from voting with the majority. As the jury pool was exiting the courtroom after dismissal by this Court, Plaintiff Jean Crawford approached the two jurors who had not signed the verdict in favor of Defendant Spanier to thank them for their support of her case. At that time, one juror indicated to Plaintiff that the jury had refused to deliberate the case and was in a hurry to get home.
Since that time, four separate jurors have either been contacted by or made
contact with Plaintiff or her family/friends. Those jurors have reportedly indicated that the jury was interested in getting home as soon as possible, that some jurors had expressed opinions about which party would be victorious from the outset of the trial, and that the jurors had been discussing the case amongst themselves prior to deliberations. Based upon this information, Plaintiff's Counsel seeks leave of Court to interview four jurors, including the alternate who did not participate in deliberations. Since the jurors are members of a larger pool that is slated to serve until May 1st, 2011, Plaintiff seeks permission from this Court prior to contacting the jurors regarding this matter.
Since this matter would obviously play a substantial role in any motion for a new trial, Plaintiff's Counsel would ask that this Court delay entering any Judgment in this case so that Plaintiff would not be prejudiced by the inability to obtain evidence in support of said motion.
The circuit court granted Crawford leave to interview the jurors over the objections of the appellees, but only permitted Crawford to ask the jurors the following questions:
1) At any point during the trial, were you aware of any juror who made statements to the effect that they intentionally did not respond truthfully to the judge or attorneys during the jury selection process? If so, could you identify the juror and the statements made?
2) During the trial, were you aware of any juror who was approached by or had contact with any person or group who attempted the [sic] influence the outcome of the jury's decision? If so, could you identify the juror?
3) Did you hear any jury member indicate that he or she had obtained information from a source outside of the evidence and testimony presented at trial? If so, could you identify the juror?
4) During deliberations, did any juror pressure, coerce, threaten, menace, or intimidate another juror into voting for a particular party? If so, could you identify the juror?
Based upon these questions, Crawford sought affidavits from the two dissenting jurors (Betty Jean Elliott and Karen Miller) and one alternate juror (Humphrey Ballou). Miller and Ballou answered each of these questions in the negative. Elliott, however, provided detailed answers which will be discussed more fully below in our analysis. Thereafter, Crawford notified the circuit court that she had completed interviewing the jurors and that she was ready for the circuit court to enter its judgment consistent with the jury's verdict. After the circuit court did so, Crawford then filed a motion for a new trial based upon Elliott's affidavit, an additional affidavit she obtained from her husband, Tony Griffin, and a theory of either juror misconduct or irregularity in the jury's proceedings.
We will discuss the substance of Crawford's arguments below; suffice it to say, however, that the circuit court rejected them and denied her motion. This appeal followed.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
As noted, Crawford's arguments on appeal focus solely upon alleged juror misconduct. Misconduct by the jury, or irregularity in the jury's proceedings, are grounds for a new trial. See Kentucky Rules of Civil Procedure (CR) 59.01(a) and (b). A trial court's denial of an Appellant's new trial motion is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Brown v. Commonwealth, 174 S.W.3d 421, 428 (Ky. 2005) (reviewing denial of motion for new trial based on allegations of juror misconduct under abuse of
discretion standard of review). Only if the appellate court concludes that the trial court's order was clearly erroneous may it reverse. Turfway Park Racing Ass'n v. Griffin, 834 ...