Friday, September 7, 2007

Jury Duty

I just spent three days as a juror in a civil case tried in the Massachusetts Superior Court. A riveting and rewarding experience. 13 other jurors and I sat through 2.5 days of testimony and then spent 4 hours deliberating.

It was a personal injury case, with a woman suing her friends of 25 years for an injury she sustained at their house. Long story short, a poorly designed basement resulted in a sump pump about 2 feet from the foot of the basement stairs. The sump pump hole was covered with a piece of plywood. The homeowner pointed out the sump pump cover and warned the woman not to step on it, but later she did step on it and fell through the rickety cover and into a two-foot hole. She shattered one ankle and broke the other foot. She claimed the warning was not enough because she didn't know what a sump pump was or that the cover was covering a hole.

To be found negligent, the homeowners would have had to have kept the property in an unsafe condition OR would have failed to provide a warning to the unsafe condition.

7 people were called to testify, and their statements coupled with the written evidence (EMT report, hospital admission report, and initial physical therapy report) led us to conclude that 1.) The injured party was adequately warned, and 2.) More than likely, she stumbled on the stairs which resulted in both feet landing on the cover.

Therefore, we found in favor of the defendants.

It was hard not to look at the defendants when we walked into the courtroom to deliver the verdict, but I didn't want to tip them off. After our verdict was read, I snuck a peek at the defendants and was disappointed to not see them smile, hug or otherwise react. I guess they were (rightly) confident in their case.

If I was able to be 18 again and entering college, I'd focus on law and strive to become a judge. The environment in the courtroom was stimulating and I found I was able to anticipate most of the strategies both lawyers used with the witnesses and the case overall.

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