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When Jurors Want to Quarantine Mid-Trial…

A BigLaw civil jury trial finished yesterday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The first phase was a 12-day trial that began October 1 and concluded on October 22 with a verdict of $21 million in compensatory damages for the plaintiff. A punitive damage phase began—and ended—yesterday.

At some point before the punitive phase, the judge excused Juror #1 because of “COVID-19 exposure,” according to a filing by the defendant. Yesterday morning, the defendant moved for a mistrial based on the change of composition of the jury. In the alternative, the defendant sought a mistrial “on the grounds that the Court improperly [dismissed Juror #1] without providing the interested parties the opportunity to participate in the examination of the impact of the juror’s excusal for quarantine for COVID-19.”

The judge let the trial go forward, with a plan to take up the motion for a mistrial before the jury deliberated. Opening statements, evidence, closing arguments and jury charge were all accomplished over a five-hour period. Then the court denied the motion for a mistrial—but it looks like an appellate court will never review this one. After deliberating for just over an hour, the jury returned with a verdict of zero punitive damages.

© 2020 McDermott Will & EmeryNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 324
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