Texas Supreme Court Overturns Verdict Based on Nine-Word Note From Foreperson

250px-95-98_ford_explorerThe Texas Supreme Court has overturned the verdict in a major torts case based on a nine-word note from a juror. During the second-day of jury deliberations in a rollover cases against Ford, a note was sent to the judge from forewoman Cynthia Cortez of the jury asking, “What is the maximum amount that can be awarded?” Cortez even put a smiley face on the note which sent Ford’s attorneys into a panic to settle the case. They quickly agreed to a settlement of $3 million. It was not until after the jury was dismissed that they learned that Cortez allegedly sent the note without the approval of the jury and that the jury was siding with Ford in its deliberations.

The case involve the rollover of a Ford Explorer based on an alleged faulty design. Rosa Martinez of Brownsville, Texas was paralyzed in the 2002 accident from the neck down. The Ford lawyers eventually secured sworn statements from most of the jurors which portrayed Cortez in a highly unflattering light. Jurors claimed that Cortez effectively grabbed the position of foreperson and proceeded to alienate some of the jurors.

As it turns out, the jury took less than five minutes to find that the roof of the vehicle did not have a design defect by a vote of 10-2 with Cortez in the minority. Some recalled her as the only vote against Ford on the issue. On a second question of whether the vehicle had a defect in handling or stability that caused the accident, the jury again voted heavily for Ford. Cortez had to miss a day of deliberations for personal reason and is described as aggressively pursuing a vote against Ford. There were ten jurors also expressing a position for Ford when the note was sent out of the room. Some said that they did not know about the note while others said they were vehemently opposed to it.

Notably, the trial judge would not allow for a hearing into possible jury tampering and abuse. The Texas Supreme Court will now let those issues to be addressed in addition to a new trial. THe court found that the trial court erred in denying a hearing and affidavits on the issues raised by the other jurors:

First, while Ford interviewed some of the jurors, it did not have the opportunity to question the presiding juror while she was under oath and required to respond under penalty of perjury. See, e.g., Tex. R. Civ. P. 176.6, .8 (requiring a nonparty to comply with a discovery subpoena subject to being held in contempt of court); Tex. R. Civ. P. 199.5(b) (requiring a person whose deposition is taken to be placed under oath); Tex. Penal Code § 37.02 (providing that it is a criminal offense to make a false statement under oath). Additionally, when discovery is denied and because of the denial the evidence sought does not appear in the record, determining harm from the denial is impossible and the party is prevented from properly presenting its case on appeal. See Tom L. Scott, Inc. v. McIlhany, 798 S.W.2d 556, 558 (Tex. 1990) (orig. proceeding) (“[T]he protective order shields the witnesses from deposition and thereby prevents the evidence from being part of the record. Therefore, it would be impossible to determine on appeal if the denial were harmful error.”); Jampole v. Touchy, 673 S.W.2d 569, 576 (Tex. 1984) (orig. proceeding). The lack of direct evidence about whether the presiding juror was subjected to outside influence probably prevented Ford from properly presenting its case on appeal. Accordingly, the trial court’s abuse of discretion in denying discovery was harmful. See Tex. R. App. P. 44.1(a).

For the opinion, click here.

Recently, we saw a verdict overturned based on the role of a law professor as a foreperson, here.

For the full story, click here

Kudos: Megan Provost

28 thoughts on “Texas Supreme Court Overturns Verdict Based on Nine-Word Note From Foreperson”

  1. Former Dem,

    I usually do not reply to Dem-wits, but when you posted those 4 long, back-to-back posts above on this thread, one of my posts was lost because we posted at the exact same time.

    I doubt that anyone reads your long copy/pastes so if you are going to post here, please write you own thoughts and give attribution to material you copy that help your position.

    Thank you.

  2. The Declaration of Cumaná: Capitalism ‘threatens life on the planet’ or “WHAT A HANDSHAKE GOT THE WORLD”…

    April 24, 2009

    We, the Heads of State and Government of Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela, member countries of ALBA, consider that the Draft Declaration of the 5th Summit of the Americas is insufficient and unacceptable for the following reasons:

    – The Declaration does not provide answers to the Global Economic Crisis, even though this crisis constitutes the greatest challenge faced by humanity in the last decades and is the most serious threat of the current times to the welfare of our peoples.

    – The Declaration unfairly excludes Cuba, without mentioning the consensus in the region condemning the blockade and isolation to which the people and the government of Cuba have incessantly been exposed in a criminal manner.

    For this reason, we, the member countries of ALBA believe that there is no consensus for the adoption of this draft declaration because of the reasons above stated, and accordingly, we propose to hold a thorough debate on the following topics:

    1. Capitalism is leading humanity and the planet to extinction. What we are experiencing is a global economic crisis of a systemic and structural nature, not another cyclic crisis. Those who think that with a taxpayer money injection and some regulatory measures this crisis will end are wrong. The financial system is in crisis because it trades bonds with six times the real value of the assets and services produced and rendered in the world, this is not a “system regulation failure”, but a integrating part of the capitalist system that speculates with all assets and values with a view to obtain the maximum profit possible. Until now, the economic crisis has generated over 100 million additional hungry persons and has slashed over 50 million jobs, and these figures show an upward trend.

    2. Capitalism has caused the environmental crisis, by submitting the necessary conditions for life in the planet, to the predominance of market and profit. Each year we consume one third more of what the planet is able to regenerate. With this squandering binge of the capitalist system, we are going to need two planets Earth by the year 2030.

    3. The global economic crisis, climate change, the food crisis and the energy crisis are the result of the decay of capitalism, which threatens to end life and the planet. To avert this outcome, it is necessary to develop and model an alternative to the capitalist system. A system based on:

    – solidarity and complementarity, not competition;
    – a system in harmony with our mother earth and not plundering of human resources;
    – a system of cultural diversity and not cultural destruction and imposition of cultural values and lifestyles alien to the realities of our countries;
    – a system of peace based on social justice and not on imperialist policies and wars;
    – in summary, a system that recovers the human condition of our societies and peoples and does not reduce them to mere consumers or merchandise.

    4. As a concrete expression of the new reality of the continent, we, Caribbean and Latin American countries, have commenced to build our own institutionalization, an institutionalization that is based on a common history dating back to our independence revolution and constitutes a concrete tool for deepening the social, economic and cultural transformation processes that will consolidate our full sovereignty.

    ALBA-TCP, Petrocaribe or UNASUR, mentioning merely the most recently created, are solidarity-based mechanisms of unity created in the midst of such transformations with the obvious intention of boosting the efforts of our peoples to attain their own freedom. To face the serious effects of the global economic crisis, we, the ALBA-TCP countries, have adopted innovative and transforming measures that seek real alternatives to the inadequate international economic order, not to boost their failed institutions. Thus, we have implemented a Regional Clearance Unitary System, the SUCRE, which includes a Common Unit of Account, a Clearance Chamber and a Single Reserve System. Similarly, we have encouraged the constitution of grand-national companies to satisfy the essential needs of our peoples and establish fair and complementary trade mechanisms that leave behind the absurd logic of unbridled competition.

    5. We question the G20 for having tripled the resources of the International Monetary Fund when the real need is to establish a new world economic order that includes the full transformation of the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO, entities that have contributed to this global economic crisis with their neoliberal policies.

    6. The solutions to the global economic crisis and the definition of a new international financial scheme should be adopted with the participation of the 192 countries that will meet in the United Nations Conference on the International Financial Crisis to be held on June 1-3 to propose the creation of a new international economic order.

    7. As for climate change, developed countries are in an environmental debt to the world because they are responsible for 70% of historical carbon emissions into the atmosphere since 1750. Developed countries should pay off their debt to humankind and the planet; they should provide significant resources to a fund so that developing countries can embark upon a growth model which does not repeat the serious impacts of the capitalist industrialization.

    8. Solutions to the energy, food and climate change crises should be comprehensive and interdependent. We cannot solve a problem by creating new ones in fundamental areas for life. For instance, the widespread use of agricultural fuels has an adverse effect on food prices and the use of essential resources, such as water, land and forests.

    9. We condemn the discrimination against migrants in any of its forms. Migration is a human right, not a crime. Therefore, we request the United States government an urgent reform of its migration policies in order to stop deportations and massive raids and allow for reunion of families. We further demand the removal of the wall that separates and divides us, instead of uniting us.

    In this regard, we petition for the abrogation of the Law of Cuban Adjustment and removal of the discriminatory, selective Dry Feet, Wet Feet policy that has claimed human losses. Bankers who stole the money and resources from our countries are the true responsible, not migrant workers. Human rights should come first, particularly human rights of the underprivileged, downtrodden sectors in our society, that is, migrants without identity papers. Free movement of people and human rights for everybody, regardless of their migration status, are a must for integration. Brain drain is a way of plundering skilled human resources exercised by rich countries.

    10. Basic education, health, water, energy and telecommunications services should be declared human rights and cannot be subject to private deal or marketed by the World Trade Organization. These services are and should be essentially public utilities of universal access.

    11. We wish a world where all, big and small, countries have the same rights and where there is no empire. We advocate non-intervention. There is the need to strengthen, as the only legitimate means for discussion and assessment of bilateral and multilateral agendas in the hemisphere, the foundations for mutual respect between states and governments, based on the principle of non-interference of a state in the internal affairs of another state, and inviolability of sovereignty and self-determination of the peoples.

    We request the new Government of the United States, the arrival of which has given rise to some expectations in the hemisphere and the world, to finish the longstanding and dire tradition of interventionism and aggression that has characterized the actions of the US governments throughout history, and particularly intensified during the Administration of President George W. Bush. By the same token, we request the new Government of the United States to abandon interventionist practices, such as cover-up operations, parallel diplomacy, media wars aimed at disturbing states and governments, and funding of destabilizing groups. Building on a world where varied economic, political, social and cultural approaches are acknowledged and respected is of the essence.

    12. With regard to the U.S. blockade against Cuba and the exclusion of the latter from the Summit of the Americas, we, the member states of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America, reassert the Declaration adopted by all Latin American and Caribbean countries last December 16, 2008, on the need to end the economic, trade and financial blockade imposed by the Government of the United States of America on Cuba, including the implementation of the so-called Helms-Burton Act. The declaration sets forth in its fundamental paragraphs the following:

    “CONSIDERING the resolutions approved by the United Nations General Assembly on the need to finish the economic, trade and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba, and the statements on such blockade, which have been approved in numerous international meetings.

    “WE AFFIRM that the application of unilateral, coercive measures affecting the wellbeing of peoples and hindering integration processes is unacceptable when defending free exchange and the transparent practice of international trade.

    “WE STRONGLY REPEL the enforcement of laws and measures contrary to International Law, such as the Helms-Burton Act, and we urge the Government of the United States of America to finish such enforcement.

    “WE REQUEST the Government of the United States of America to comply with the provisions set forth in 17 successive resolutions approved by the United Nations General Assembly and put an end to the economic, trade and financial blockade on Cuba.”

    Additionally, we consider that the attempts at imposing the isolation of Cuba have failed, as nowadays Cuba forms an integral part of the Latin American and Caribbean region; it is a member of the Rio Group and other hemispheric organizations and mechanisms, which develops a policy of cooperation, in solidarity with the countries in the hemisphere; which promotes full integration of Latin American and Caribbean peoples. Therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to justify its exclusion from the mechanism of the Summit of the Americas.

    13. Developed countries have spent at least USD 8 billion to rescue a collapsing financial structure. They are the same that fail to allocate the small sums of money to attain the Millennium Goals or 0.7% of the GDP for the Official Development Assistance. Never before the hypocrisy of the wording of rich countries had been so apparent. Cooperation should be established without conditions and fit in the agendas of recipient countries by making arrangements easier; providing access to the resources, and prioritizing social inclusion issues.

    14. The legitimate struggle against drug trafficking and organized crime, and any other form of the so-called “new threats” must not be used as an excuse to undertake actions of interference and intervention against our countries.

    15. We are firmly convinced that the change, where everybody repose hope, can come only from organization, mobilization and unity of our peoples.

    As the Liberator wisely said:

    Unity of our peoples is not a mere illusion of men, but an inexorable decree of destiny. — Simón Bolívar

  3. Mike the Atty.

    I disagree and I feel comfortable that if it had been anywhere else but the US Sct or Texas Sct the result would have been affirmed.

    This is BS. This is now the Sct playing Monday morning Quarterback. If I had a Divorce settlement and the other side hid assets then you know as well as I Fraud. That is easily over tunable.

    The Majority of Agreement are final. I don’t care how they arrive at it. FINALITY.

    Whose error? The Plaintiff? The Defendant? The Judge? The Jury?

    If I have misread the facts of the case and I had already read this on the 12th of April, I am sorry. I would have bet money knowing the current make up of this court that it would have been overturned.

    However, it was not distinguished nor was the decesion limited to this case. I am of the proposition that this is going to make bad case law as a precedent.

    What did the Juror do? She sent a note asking a question, with a smiley face. It did not say anything.

    Now if it was reversed and remanded for the Defense to pay Fees and Costs Associated with this appeal. I might agree with you. But nah.

    Another Interest of mine is the PI cases and the Dwinding ability of the Plaintiff to collect becasue all of the rules have been rewritten. How long will it take for the Defense Attorney to be out of a Job? Becasue how Texas and other state have it written the Adjuster can pay a contested claim.

    FF LEO, I still amuse myself. Because if I can’t you can’t and I can’t make my amusement based upon anyone but myself.
    Thanks for the comment too.

  4. Former Dem:

    “Looking ahead, it’s difficult to imagine intelligence officers requesting permission to do anything other than following rigid pre-existing written rules in their efforts to obtain vital intelligence.”


    Why that would be quite a crisis: asking people to follow written policies and holding them accountable for failing to do so. Here in the Commonwealth we’ve been calling that the legal system since about 1607.

  5. Obama Defense Budget – ´From supremacy to just scraping by”

    Congressional Desk

    April 23, 2009

    Senate Floor Speech Outlining Major Defense Cuts Proposed by the Obama Administration

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke on the Senate Floor Monday delivering a detailed review of the Obama administration´s proposed cuts to the Department of Defense (DoD) budget.

    “I come to the Senate Floor today to speak out of great concern that we are heading down a dangerous road leading to the gutting of our military and settling for ´adequacy´ versus ´supremacy,´” Senator Inhofe said on the Senate Floor. “I first made my concerns known in a YouTube video posted from Afghanistan immediately following the announcement by the Obama administration. My concerns drew an interesting reaction from the left. Not only did they say I was wrong to say that there were proposed cuts to the budget, they actually said the Obama administration proposed to increase the budget. I must confess it is a rare day when liberals actually claim to support increasing our nation´s military.

    “The problem is the left is focused on one number – one piece of military spending – when we need to look the total Defense Budget – what DoD actually spends on all its operations and how that money is used to maintain our military capabilities. In actuality, thanks to the Obama administration, overall defense spending has been cut by $10.7B in FY09 and will be cut again in FY10 based on projected inflation and potential use of what is being called ´Overseas Contingency Funds.´ Perhaps this is the new term for our Global War on Terror.

    “We have reached a crossroads where we will choose to either invest in the modernization and readiness of our military or mistakenly ´kick the can down the road´ once more. Based on the projected defense budget for the next ten years, it looks like this administration is taking us down a path that leads to a weaker military that is poorly equipped.

    “The Obama budget of social welfare will triple the public debt in 10 years. We have already spent almost $2 trillion. The $700B for the Bank Bailout, that we now know was Tim Geithner´s plan, was simply thrown away. The October 2008 vote gave $700B to an unelected bureaucrat to spend with no restrictions or accountability. Yet, all we need is an additional $28B for defense in FY10 to adequately fund our military.

    “My fellow Oklahoman Congressman Tom Cole said it best, ´Throughout his campaign and during his short tenure as President, he has made it clear that he believes his charm and eloquence are adequate substitutes for a strong military. That will not work.´”

  6. Why I don’t like Obama:

    Admiral Blair & Porter Goss admitting the CIA received high value, lifesaving information from terrorists, while President Obama is condemning the same interrogations as immoral and counterproductive purely for political gain.

    President Obama is throwing and has thrown grand White House parties with Kobe beef, a hundred bucks a pound, while telling the nation to cut back in order to survive the greatest economic downturn supposedly since the Great Depression.

    Bowing to the king of Saudi Arabia, listening patiently and respectfully while a two-bit dictator lectures Obama with false charges for 50 minutes about the criminal country he leads, and Obama doesn’t say one word to object, one word in disagreement, does not stand up for his country at one point during the Summit of the Americas.

    Now we’ve got Fidel Castro setting Obama straight about how Cuba handles political prisoners and its economy. Fidel Castro, one of Obama’s idols, calling him superficial.

    We had the nomination of tax cheats to his cabinet, including the man who oversees the IRS, five tax cheats in the Obama administration.

    We have Obama’s joke of a press spokesman, who makes a complete idiot of himself on a daily basis.

    He sends back a symbol of freedom, that bust of Sir Winston Churchill to Great Britain just after moving into the White House. He wants nothing to do with it. He did of his own volition. They said you can keep it. He said no, we don’t want it here. They said put it in a different room in the White House. We don’t want it here, and sent it back to the British embassy. It was given to us, President Bush, after 9/11, by the Brits. He insulted the prime minister of England, the queen of England, with embarrassing, thoughtless gifts.

    We have the French president Sarkozy ridiculing Obama’s messianic complex, inviting him to walk on water at Normandy beach.

    We have Iran taking a hostage, an American journalist, as Obama promises better relations.

    We have North Korea humiliating Obama with their missile launch.

    We have Obama putting the country in debt for generations to come while promising fiscal responsibility, offering up laughable budget cuts, banning lobbyists from his administration, while appointing them left and right.

    Openly lying that Caterpillar would hire up with the passage of his stimulus bill, then watching while that company lays off thousands after the stimulus bill passes.

    He pledges to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay but then he keeps it open with no plan for its future.

    Proclaiming total transparency, while keeping secret who got the TARP funds, when, where, why.

    He is incapable of communicating without a teleprompter.

    He attacks a private citizen broadcaster from the White House as part of an orchestrated plan to distract the country from legislation and policies we don’t want, which thus touched off a political firestorm, all of this while claiming to be a unifier.

    He makes a ham-handed attempt to nationalize the banks preventing financial institutions from paying back TARP money they don’t need or want.

    General Motors is a debacle; it is an absolute debacle and mess, and soon Wall Street is going to be the same thing. He has made bad situations worse with car manufacturers, and the worst is yet to come.

    He has sparked hundreds of protests involving hundreds of thousands of Americans at tea parties regarding irresponsible government spending while his Homeland Security chief labels peacefully demonstrating Americans and veterans as security risks.

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