Indiana Appeals Court Hears Appeal on Juror Misconduct Case
After Kandace Pyles died following complications stemming from bariatric surgery, Pyles’ estate brought a negligence claim against various medical providers, including Dr. Samer Mattar. A medical review panel issued a unanimous opinion concluding that Mattar had failed to comply with the appropriate standard of care and that the conduct was a factor of Pyles’ resultant damages.
During trial, issues arose with a prospective juror, Dennis Miller, who indicated repeatedly that he did not want to serve as a juror and that he didn’t think he should have to or would be able to put a dollar amount to non-economic damages. Clark moved to strike Miller for cause, but the Marion Superior Court denied the motion, concluding Miller did not meet the qualifications for such a challenge. Estate personal representative Tammi Clark then used one of her peremptory challenges to remove Miller, a challenge she later could not use to remove Juror 3, who was objectionable.
The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial, and the Indiana Supreme Court agreed in a Thursday opinion. The high court agreed with Clark that Miller should have been stricken for cause, albeit for slightly different reasons.
“This particular case seems to fall somewhere outside of case law upholding use of peremptory strikes for reluctant jurors and cases where for cause challenges were appropriate to strike those jurors with a specific bias. On the one hand, Miller did not state he had some specific reason to be biased against Clark or for Dr. Mattar, and there’s no evidence that he concealed any information about his feelings that would bear on the case. On the other, he stated on his juror questionnaire that he did not want to serve and during voir dire, he said he would have trouble putting a dollar amount to noneconomic damages meaning that there’s a bias against the party seeking those damages — here, Clark.”