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Mary Barrios v. Denise Locastro, Case No. 4D13-861 (4th DCA)

In Barrios, the Fourth District ruled that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied the defendant's motion for a juror interview. The underlying case involved an automobile accident resulting in the plaintiff suffering neck injuries. During voir dire, the jury panel was asked whether any prospective juror or their family members had ever been a plaintiff in a suit for personal injuries or made a claim for for money damages because of personal injuries. The defense used two peremptory strikes on potential jurors who answered yes to those questions. After the verdict was rendered, it was discovered that one juror, Juror Diaz, had relatives, including both parents, who were involved in personal injury cases and obtaining social security disability benefits. The trial court denied the defendant's motion for new trial or for juror interview.

The Fourth District cited Florida Rule of Procedure 1.431(h), which provides that a party who believes that grounds for legal challenge to a verdict exist may move for an order permitting an interview of a juror or jurors to determine whether the verdict is subject to the challenge. The court further noted that "while trial courts should be hesitant to grant motions for post-trial juror interviews, where there are reasonable grounds to believe concealment of a material fact has taken place, a party is entitled to conduct a jury interview." Materiality is only shown where the omission of the information prevented counsel from making an informed judgment, which would in all likelihood have resulted in a peremptory challenge. The Fourth District found that that standard had been met in this case. The court noted that the defense had used peremptory strikes on other prospective jurors who answered yes to the above questions, and concealment of Juror Diaz's relatives' involvement in similar cases "prevented appellant's trial counsel from making an informed decision.


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