Remember the legal thriller The Runaway Jury” by John Grisham? It seems the facts of that fictional book ring true in a recent medical malpractice trial. At the conclusion of trial, which reached a defense verdict, one juror went into a bar and talked to a stranger – who happened to be an attorney – about his bias against the plaintiffs and insistence on trying the case according to his own rules. Interestingly, the attorney was not involved or affiliated in any way with the lawyers who tried the case.
On March 6, the Oklahoma Supreme Court granted a new trial for the plaintiffs based on what the court described as “the shocking circumstances of this rogue juror [that] are an absolute factual anomaly that we hope is never to be seen again.” Fields v. Saunders, No. 107302 (Okl. Mar. 6, 2012). The court warned, however, that its opinion must be narrowly applied, “We caution that we will not permit the holding in this case to be used to manufacture a ground for new trial . . . but we are likewise not hesitant to afford the remedy of new trial free from bias, if such circumstances are ever repeated.”
“Loose lips sink ships” — and, sometimes, verdicts!