Juror Fails to Disclose State Farm Policy
Court: State Court of DeKalb County
Judge: Senior Magistrate Judge C. David Wood (sitting for Hon. Wayne Purdom)
Plaintiff’s Attorney: Myrlin Earle, The Law Office of Bruce Hagen, Decatur
Defendant’s Attorneys: Russell Waldon, Waldon Adelman Castilla Hiestand & Prout, Atlanta
Alleged Damages: Herniated disc, disc protrusion
Date of Verdict: October 10, 2012
Plaintiff, 49-year-old William Irula-Canales, collided with Defendant Samuel Killebrew on July 30, 2010, on Buford Highway near Sidney Marcus Blvd. During Voir Dire, prospective jurors were asked whether they were State Farm policyholders. None said they were. After closing arguments, however, a juror told the Bailiff that she realized that she did, in fact, have a policy with State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the carrier for Defendant Killebrew. The defense moved for a mistrial, but the Court reserved ruling and gave the case to the jury. After deliberation, the jury returned a $241,000.00 verdict for the Plaintiff.
After a Hearing on Defendant’s Motion concluded at the end of November, Judge Wood ruled from the bench in Plaintiff’s favor, denying Defendant’s bid for a mistrial. Argument center around whether only the party who could have been harmed by the juror’s financial interest in the case, here the Plaintiff, has the right to a mistrial. In his losing effort, defense counsel argued that both parties retain that right since it is impossible to distinguish post-trial which party would have benefited from any potential bias the juror harbored from her experience with State Farm. As of the writing of this article, there was no word on whether this issue will be appealed.