SUMMARY JURY TRIALS
|Rule L320.1||SUMMARY JURY TRIALS – PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS|
|(a) Preliminary Considerations – The matters set forth in this Rule shall be considered but shall not be controlling in determining if civil cases are amenable for a summary jury trial.
(b) Time Necessary for Regular Trial. The court shall determine if the regular trial time would be three days or more, including time for jury selection and closings and charge. The court shall also consider the amount of damages involved and whether complex legal issues are involved.
(c) Consent of Attorneys. The court shall attempt to obtain the consent of counsel and the parties to a summary jury trial, but the court shall have the authority to direct a summary jury trial as an extension of the settlement conference.
(d) Existing Offer and Demand. The court shall also attempt to obtain the agreement of counsel and the parties to leave any current settlement offer and demand on the table for 48 hours after the summary jury trial verdict.
(e) Credibility. The court shall determine if the major issues must be resolved on the basis of credibility.
|Rule L320.2||SUMMARY JURY TRIALS – PROCEDURE|
|(a) Attendance of Parties. Individual parties shall attend the summary jury trial. An officer or other responsible lay representative of a corporate party or a claims adjuster for an insurance carrier shall also attend the summary jury trial.
(b) Non-binding Effect. Generally, summary jury trials are for settlement purposes only and are non-binding. Nothing done by counsel with reference to the summary jury trial shall be binding on counsel or the parties or shall constitute a waiver of a full jury trial. However, counsel are free to negotiate whether the summary jury trial shall be binding or non-binding and, if binding, whether a high-low agreement can be reached.
(c) Special Verdict Questions. All cases subject to a summary jury trial shall be submitted to the jury by way of special verdict questions. Counsel shall submit a joint statement of proposed special verdict questions for use at the summary jury trial prior to the selection of the jury. Special verdict questions for the summary jury trial need not be the same as those for the full jury trial. The jury shall determine the amount of damages in all cases regardless of whether a defendant is found to be liable or not liable. The court shall determine the format of the verdict slip to be used and rule on disputed questions.
(d) Jury Selection. Summary juries shall consist of six jurors. Counsel may be present at jury selection conducted by the court, and submit proposed voir dire questions for the court’s use in accordance with Rule L320.3.
(e) Presentation of the Case by Counsel. Each side shall be entitled to one hour for presentation of its case, unless counsel presents a compelling reason at the pre-trial conference justifying more time for each side. Presentation of the case by counsel will involve a combination or argument, summarization of the evidence to be presented at the regular trial and a statement of the applicable law, but only to the extent it is needed to be known by the jury in answering the special verdict questions. No live testimony will be presented except in cases where credibility will determine the major issues. If any witness is permitted to be called by any party, the time used to examine the witness shall be assessed against the one-hour time limit of the party calling the witness. The court shall determine the number of witnesses to be presented. Counsel may quote from depositions and may use exhibits and video tapes. Counsel should not refer to evidence which would not be admissible at trial. The plaintiff shall proceed first and shall have a rebuttal of no longer than 15 minutes.
(f) Applicable Law. The court shall charge the jury on the applicable law to the extent it is appropriate and required by the jury in answering the special verdict questions. Counsel may submit requested points for charge for consideration by the court prior to the selection of the summary jury. The court shall rule on any disputes of points for charge, as well as any pre-trial motions before the summary jury trial.
(g) Jury Verdict. Agreement by at least five of the six jurors shall constitute a verdict.
(h) Length of Deliberations. If the jury does not reach a verdict within a reasonable time, the court may consider polling the jurors individually.
(i) Oral Questions to Summary Jury. After the verdict, counsel and the court may address questions in open court to the jury. No juror is required to answer. Any juror may address any comment or question to the court and counsel. Participation by the jurors is strictly voluntary.
(j) Scheduling Regular Trial. Should the summary jury trial not result in a settlement, a full jury trial shall be immediately scheduled but not for the same calendar week.
|Rule L320.3||SUMMARY JURY TRIALS – JURY SELECTION|
|The court shall select the jury and may use the following voir dire, in addition to any proposed voir dire suggested by counsel or determined by the court:
(a) The jurors’ availability for the specific date and time of the summary jury trial. If the case starts in the morning, the court will determine prospective jurors availability all day. If it begins in the afternoon, the court will determine their availability through the dinner hour into the early evening.
(b) Whether any of the prospective jurors, for any health reason, are physically unable to perform their task as jurors, which would require them to sit for a period of as long as one hour without a recess and whether any prospective juror has any hearing difficulties, recent surgeries, nervous conditions, etc.
(c) A brief factual summary of the case shall be provided to determine if any of the jurors have any knowledge of the allegations in the case.
(d) The specific identification of the plaintiff and defendant by name and address to further determine if any of the prospective jurors know any party.
(e) Whether any of the prospective jurors have or had any social or business dealings, past or present, with either counsel or their law firms.
(f) If there are any particular witnesses who are going to be unusually significant to the argument, lay or medical, the court will identify them to the jury and determine the prospective jurors’ knowledge or contact with them.
(g) Whether any of the prospective jurors have had a similar injury to that claimed by the plaintiff or if a close friend or family member has had such an injury so it can be determined whether any prospective juror has any bias regarding the injury itself.
(h) When any of the parties is other than an individual, the court will emphasize and explore the prospective juror’s ability to give a corporation, for example, the same consideration that any other party is entitled to receive.
(i) Whether any prospective juror has any fixed opinions which would prevent the juror from awarding money damages in cases where fault is determined to exist and an actual injury has resulted from the defendant’s conduct.
(j) Whether any prospective juror has any fixed opinions that would prevent the juror from deciding that a defendant is not liable if the evidence shows either that the defendant was not at fault or that the defendant’s fault caused no actual injury to the plaintiff.
(k) Whether any prospective juror has been involved either as a plaintiff or a defendant in the particular type of case before the court or whether a family member or close personal friend has been involved in a case such that it would have any bearing on their ability to sit fairly and impartially.
(l) Whether any prospective juror has any other reason, not stated by the court, why they would be unable to sit fairly and impartially in the particular case.
(m) If counsel desire any additional voir dire, it should be submitted to the court at least 10 days prior to jury selection.
|Rule L320.4||POST SUMMARY JURY TRIAL CONFERENCE|
|If the summary jury trial is not binding, then a post-trial settlement conference shall be conducted. Generally, the settlement conference shall be conducted immediately following the summary jury trial or, if not possible, as close to the summary jury trial date as can be reasonably scheduled. In no event should it be conducted longer than 30 days from the trial. At the settlement conference, the court shall be an active player in resolving the case. The court may function as a “seventh” juror, supporting the jury’s verdict generally where indicated and interposing the court’s own view as to likely results before a full jury where the same is appropriate. This may move the case toward resolution. If the settlement conference does not settle the case, then the court shall schedule the case for a full jury trial.|