In a recently published decision, NY Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills refused to overturn a jury verdict based on a claim of juror misconduct. Unhappy with an adverse verdict, defense counsel claimed that certain jurors, who were seen by all to have “open laptops” during the trial, must have learned, via the internet, of defendant’s unsavory past, thus explaining the adverse verdict.
Justice Mills rejected the argument because defense counsel had neither requested a limiting jury instruction nor objected to the lack of instructions regarding the internet’s use to investigate facts not in evidence. Moreover, beyond producing copies of the adverse publicity, defense counsel offered no proof that any jurors had in fact viewed the toxic information.
As insurance defense lawyers, we mainly represent clients who live and work beneath the radar. But from time to time, we represent insureds who have well-documented and often very unflattering internet histories.
Justice Mills’s decision reminds us to be ever vigilant in determining what, if any, “presence” our clients have on the net and, if so, to take adequate precautions if the matter proceeds to trial. But bear in mind, no matter how stern the trial court’s warnings, there is really nothing to prevent a curious juror from surfing the web at night.
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