The Mississippi Supreme Court has reversed a $6.5 million verdict in a nursing home case because of juror misconduct. Mariner Health Care v. Estate of Edwards et al., No. 2004-CA-01478-SCT, 2007 WL 2670308 (Miss. Sept. 13, 2007). The court said that the trial court’s failure to investigate claims of juror misconduct warranted a new trial.

In December 2003 the jury had awarded the plaintiffs $1.5 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. One of the jurors contacted the defendant after the trial about alleged juror misconduct. This juror said in an affidavit that a fellow juror made numerous prejudicial comments to other jurors during the trial, including stating on the first day that she had already made up her mind in favor of the plaintiffs, and that she had witnessed her relative and other residents lying in their own feces and receiving poor care at the nursing home facility at issue. Also, other jurors made race-based comments in favor of the black plaintiffs stating, “white people have been taking black people’s money” for years and the “jurors needed to stick together to get money back to black people.”

The defendant filed a motion to stay the judgment until the court conducted an inquiry into the jurors’ alleged statements. The lower
court denied the motion and entered final judgment. The defendant appealed. The majority of the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed. The court stated that if the statements were made by the juror those statements would show that she failed to answer at least two voir dire questions truthfully and that if she had answered truthfully the district court would have disqualified her. Thus, the court found that
the district court’s failure to investigate was prejudicial to the defendant and reversed.

The Knudsen Law Firm has extensive experience in defending nursing home cases in Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa. If you have questions about nursing home defense contact Kevin McManaman, Jeanelle Lust or Joe Wilkins at 800-714-3439

Jeanelle Lust
Managing Partner