Manuel v. MDOW Insurance Company
ORDER denying 72 Motion for New Trial. Signed by Judge Kristine G. Baker on 07/29/2014. (rhm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
Case No. 2:12-cv-00035 KGB
MDOW INSURANCE COMPANY
Before the Court is plaintiff Kirk Manuel’s motion for new trial (Dkt. No. 72).
Defendant MDOW Insurance Company (“MDOW”) has responded in opposition to the motion
(Dkt. No. 74), Mr. Manuel has replied (Dkt. No. 78), and MDOW has responded to the reply
(Dkt. No. 79).
In support of his motion for a new trial Mr. Manuel states that two jurors failed to
disclose to the Court their relationships with five of Mr. Manuel’s witnesses. Mr. Manuel argues
that these two jurors have actual and implied bias, which they concealed from the Court. He
claims, as a result, that this case was not tried to an impartial jury.
The alleged relationships of the jurors to the witnesses and potential witnesses include a
juror who is the cousin of one witness, a juror who is a former teacher and coach who taught and
coached at a school that a few witnesses and potential witnesses attended, a juror who was
childhood friends with and who ended up marrying a man to whom one witness was engaged
many years ago, and a juror who teaches the special needs son of one witness.
MDOW responds that Mr. Manuel’s motion and supporting affidavits fall short of a
showing that would justify setting aside the verdict or investigating the allegations further.
MDOW argues that Mr. Manuel has not indicated sufficiently that any juror answered
dishonestly, that the alleged contacts between the jurors and witnesses at issue are so remote and
casual that it cannot be said that the jurors responded to questions posed during voir dire
dishonestly, that there is no evidence to suggest either juror was motivated by partiality toward
MDOW or against Mr. Manuel, and that Mr. Manuel has not shown that, if the alleged true facts
had been known, it would have supported striking either juror for cause.
Mr. Manuel maintains that the undisclosed relationships are not casual or tenuous but
instead are close relationships that imply actual dishonesty and prejudice on the part of the
jurors. This Court accepts as true for purposes of resolving this motion Mr. Manuel’s contention
that he did not know this information or of these relationships prior to the verdict being returned.
The Court declines MDOW’s request to reject the affidavits of Mr. Manuel.
The United States Supreme Court has held that “a litigant is entitled to a fair trial but not
a perfect one, for there are no perfect trials.” McDonough Power Equip., Inc. v. Greenwood, 464
U.S. 548, 553 (1984) (quotations omitted). The Court went on to say:
Trials are costly, not only for the parties, but also for the jurors performing their
civic duty and for society which pays the judges and support personnel who
manage the trials. It seems doubtful that our judicial system would have the
resources to provide litigants with perfect trials, were they possible, and still keep
abreast of its constantly increasing case load. . . .
To invalidate the result of a  trial because of a juror’s mistaken, though honest
response to a question, is to insist on something closer to perfection than our
judicial system can be expected to give. A trial represents an important
investment of private and social resources, and it ill serves the important end of
finality to wipe the slate clean simply to recreate the peremptory challenge
process because counsel lacked an item of information which objectively he
should have obtained from a juror on voir dire examination. . . . We hold that to
obtain a new trial in such a situation, a party must first demonstrate that a juror
failed to answer honestly a material question on voir dire, and then further show
that a correct response would have provided a valid basis for a challenge for
cause. The motives for concealing information may vary, but only those reasons
that affect a juror’s impartiality can truly be said to affect the fairness of a trial.
Id. at 553–56.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held, based on McDonough, that a party seeking a
new trial on the basis of concealed juror bias must prove three things about the voir dire: (1) that
the juror answered dishonestly, not just inaccurately; (2) that the juror was motivated by
partiality; and (3) that the true facts, if known, would have supported striking the juror for cause.
United States v. Tucker (Tucker I), 137 F.3d 1016, 1026 (8th Cir. 1998).
The Court has reviewed the filings and the affidavits submitted by the parties and finds
that Mr. Manuel has not met the high evidentiary burden set forth in McDonough and Tucker I to
grant a new trial or even to merit this Court’s conducting a hearing on his request for a new trial.
Mr. Manuel argues, in the alternative, that this Court should adopt the “implied bias” test
that has been adopted by some federal courts of appeal but, notably, not the Eighth Circuit. On
the matter of the implied bias test, the Eighth Circuit has stated, “without resolving whether or
not presumed bias can support a grant of a new trial in our circuit, we observe that the idea of
presumed bias is reserved for extreme cases, such as when a juror is a close relative of a party or
victim in the case.” United States v. Tucker (Tucker II), 243 F.3d 499, 509 (8th Cir. 2001). That
court quoted with approval Justice O’Connor’s concurrence in Smith v. Phillips, 455 U.S. 209,
222 (1982), to describe some extreme situations that would warrant a finding of implied bias:
Some examples might include a revelation that a juror is an actual employee of
the prosecuting agency, that the juror is a close relative of one of the participants
in the trial or the criminal transaction, or that the juror was a witness or somehow
involved in the criminal transaction.
455 U.S. at 222.
Even were this Court to adopt the implied bias test, the Court finds that Mr. Manuel has
not alleged any extreme case of bias here. Although one juror and one witness are allegedly
cousins, they are not, on the record before the Court, “close relatives” such that a new trial would
be warranted under the implied bias test. The Court therefore denies Mr. Manuel’s motion for a
new trial (Dkt. No. 72).
SO ORDERED this 29th day of July, 2014.
Kristine G. Baker
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?