- The plaintiff, Ms. X, claimed she reinjured her back (broken 2 years previously in a 4-wheeler accident) through the negligence of Miss Y. So issue 1 was: was Miss Y negligent?
- If issue 1 was 'yes' then we were to decide how much money to award Ms. X. She was asking for enough to cover her medical expenses.
- Issue 3 was that Miss Y was suing the driver, Mr. Z, of the car Ms. X was in, for negligence. If we awarded monetary damages to Ms. X, and found Mr. Z also negligent, then he and Miss Y together had to pay Ms. X.
Mr. Z and Ms. X at the time of the accident were boyfriend/girlfriend. They were in the same car.
Miss Y was part of a caravan of college students from another state, driving to the beach for summer vacation. They were using 2-way radios to stay in touch and had decided to stop at a fast food restaurant for lunch. Miss Y was in the middle car in the caravan. The first car had already turned into the fast food restaurant when the accident occurred.
As soon as we saw the pictures, I knew what had happened. Mr. Z and Ms. X had been using the turn lane to bypass a line of cars at a stoplight 1/4 of a mile up the road. Miss Y was in that turn lane, waiting for an opening in oncoming traffic to turn into the fast food restaurant. Mr. Z was zipping up the turn lane, saw Miss Y ahead and tried to go around her on the left, realized there was a median strip ahead so he had to swerve back to the right to get back into the turn lane before he hit the cement median. At that moment, Miss Y took her foot off the brake to turn left into the restaurant, not seeing Mr. Z coming up on her left where there should have been no traffic. Mr. Z hit her, catching her front driver side bumper with his front, right-side (passenger side) wheel well, bending outward Miss Y's bumper.
I had narrowly avoided an accident such as this, myself, last year in Chicago, when some jerk tried to swoop around me on the left side when I was in the left turn lane with my blinker on to turn left. I fortunately saw them and did not let my foot off the brake. Miss Y was not that lucky. However, her boyfriend, seated next to her had the presence of mind to take a bunch of photos at the scene.
The attorneys for Ms. X and Mr. Z tried to claim Mr. Z (traveling illegally up the turn lane that is one of those marked for both north and south bound turns into various stores for 1/4 of a mile before a light) had been in the turn lane and Miss Y tried to turn into the turn lane and from there into the restaurant from the normal thru-traffic lane. However, given the position of the cars, and Mr. Z's skidmarks, this was simply not possible, even though they drew plenty of diagrams to make us think that it was, and to make us think Mr. Z's skidmarks started out while he was completely in the turn lane instead of being of the far, far left of the turn lane where he actually was.
Anyway, when we were finally told to go and make our decision, I was groaning to myself thinking, well, this jury has to come to a unanimous decision and I sure don't want it to take days, so I was planning to make little paper cars and show why Ms. X and Mr. Z's stories didn't hold water, and failing that, recommending the smallest monetary recompense we could do. Because there were some other facts about Ms. X's medical expenses that didn't seem right to me. Like her doctor was the doctor she worked for, and the fact that she had another accident a week later. And she didn't appear to acquire pain medication until about 2 months later according to the pharmacy bills.
Anyway, another telling point was that we couldn't get the police officer's accident report. I'm convinced this was intentional on the part of the plaintiff who wouldn't want that entered into evidence because it would clearly have stated that the accident was Mr. Z's fault. No police officers testified at all.
Was I in for a surprise! When we got in the jury room, everyone said: it was Mr. Z's fault, no doubt about it! No one even disagreed! I didn't even have to bring forward my arguements (that I had been mentally preparing) with the little paper cars or the fact that this was a civil suit because clearly, Mr. Z was at fault and Ms. X was his girlfriend and could not or did not get his insurance to cover her medical bills. Not to mention that one week after this accident, she was in another car accident so it would be difficult to state which accident aggravated her back problems, if indeed they were aggravated by either. It was interesting that her bill for medicine was dated in August when the accident was in June. I guess she didn't need any pain medication until August. Hmmm.
So the final decisions were:
- NO. We found in favor of the defendant. [The plaintiff, Ms. X, claimed she reinjured her back (broken 2 years previously in a 4-wheeler accident) through the negligence of Miss Y. So issue 1 was: was Miss Y negligent? no. She was in the turn lane, waiting to turn.]
- $0 [If issue 1 was 'yes' then we were to decide how much money to award Ms. X. She was asking for enough to cover her medical expenses. She got zip because Issue 1 was no.]
- -- [Issue 3 was that Miss Y was suing the driver, Mr. Z, of the car Ms. X was in, for negligence. If we awarded monetary damages to Ms. X, and found Mr. Z also negligent, then he and Miss Y both had to split the payments to Ms. X. Because of answering NO to 1, this issue was left as is - Mr. Z was clearly at fault.]
Anyway, I was really impressed by how well all twelve jurors with differing education and backgrounds were able to weigh the evidence and every one of us came up with the same conclusions. Maybe this was just a simple case, I don't know, but I have to say I was impressed with my fellow jurors who covered a wide, wide variety of lifestyles and showed an uncanny ability to sift fact from fiction. I was further impressed that they didn't hold the fact that Miss Y was young and from out-of-state against her. They didn't find in favor of the plaintiff just because she had lived locally all of her life.
Maybe there is hope for us yet! Maybe our judicial systems has the occasional good day.
(Although I have to say, I thought this law suit was frivolous to begin with, but I'm glad we decided the way we did.)