California Court of Appeals Affirms Jury’s Purported Use of Math in Accident Verdict

In a  recent California Court of Appeals decision, Trapasso v. Romero, Cal. Ct. App. (2014), the court had to rule on the issue of alleged jury misconduct according to allegations the plaintiff made that jurors engaged in misconduct by making calculations related to potential speed as related to a motorcycle and truck accident.

In the case, several motorcyclists were attempting to pass a truck that was pulling a trailer at a low rate of speed, when one of the motorcyclists collided with the vehicle as it turned left.

At trial, the main sources of contention were how fast the motorcyclists were travelling, in what formation, and whether the truck had used its turn signal prior to beginning its turn. There was conflicting expert witness testimony regarding the speed allegations, and conflicting witness testimony was presented regarding the truck’s use of a left hand turn signal and the speed of the motorcyclists.

The jury returned a verdict for the defense, by  a vote of 9-3, finding that the defendant truck driver was not negligent.

The jurors’ statements included allegations that some of the jurors had already made their minds up prior to the presentation of the evidence, and that two of the jurors were writing mathematical calculations to represent their estimations of speed and force involved in the accident.

At the hearing for a new trial, there was discussion regarding whether the alleged mathematical calculations were simple speed/distance calculations and a finding that experts had testified regarding these sorts of findings. The court further noted that there was no evidence that anyone in the jury relied on the calculations that were reportedly written on the board in the jury room. The defense counsel also reportedly presented case law demonstrating that these sorts of simple calculations were permissible. The trial court judge therefore denied the motion for a new trial, finding there was no specific prejudice or juror misconduct.

Jurors are prohibited from introducing new evidence in reaching a decision. However, the court stated, not every consideration of outside information is necessarily misconduct. Jurors “bring to their deliberations knowledge and beliefs about general matters of law and fact that find their source in everyday life and experience.” Drawing from these experiences has been repeatedly upheld as properly within the jury’s province.

The key, it seems, is whether this creates new evidence, which in this case the court found that it did not. Although there was a vague representation that a juror may have calculated the force of impact, there was no specific allegation of a formula that was used, or that the juror actually calculated the force of impact. Therefore, there was insufficient evidence to establish that the jurors were engaged in impermissible calculations.

From the evidence presented, the court found that it appeared that the two jurors who purportedly wrote calculations regarding speed and distance did not introduce new evidence, but rather were using facts of generalized knowledge, which was thus permissible. The judgment was thus affirmed.

One of the most serious types of automobile accidents is those which involve a motorcycle.  The size and speed of motorcycles often makes them very difficult to see, and their structure makes injury often more severe than in a car accident.  If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, contact Sharifi Firm, APC  for a free consultation with a California motorcycle accident lawyer.  There is never any obligation associated with your initial consultation, so do not hesitate in contacting us.  We will determine your eligibility for compensation and will get you started toward recouping the damages that you have suffered.

More Blog Posts:

California Court of Appeals Upholds Default Judgment in Faulty Brakes Accident Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published April 16, 2015

California Court of Appeals Upholds Judgment in Favor of Driver in San Francisco Pedestrian Accident Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published April 13, 2015

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