Bostick v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
ORDER: Plaintiff Lisa N. Bostick's Motion for Jury Interview (Doc. # 157 ) is DENIED. Signed by Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington on 3/8/2018. (KAK)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
LISA N. BOSTICK,
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE
This matter comes before the Court pursuant to Plaintiff
Lisa N. Bostick’s Motion for Jury Interview (Doc. # 157),
which was filed on November 14, 2017.
Defendant State Farm
Opposition to the Motion (Doc. # 162) on November 28, 2017.
The Court denies the Motion as explained below.
Factual and Procedural Background
In mid-November, 2013, Bostick, a University of Tampa
professor, was driving in Tampa, Florida when her car was
rear-ended by non-party Blair Alsup. (Doc. # 2 at ¶ 4).
(including a traumatic brain injury), disability, mental
anguish, and loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life as a
result of the accident. (Id. at ¶ 6). At the time of the
accident, Bostick was insured by State Farm and Alsup was
insured by GEICO.
(Id. at ¶¶ 7-8).
GEICO paid $100,000 to
Bostick as “full and final settlement for the bodily injuries
Alsup caused.” (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9).
compensation for her injuries and therefore she sued State
Farm seeking underinsured/uninsured motorist benefits in state
court. (Doc. # 2).
State Farm removed the action to this
Court on June 2, 2016, predicating jurisdiction on complete
diversity of citizenship and underscoring in the Notice of
Removal that “Plaintiff claims to have incurred, to date,
$257,315.95 in total medical bills.” (Doc. # 1 at 2). Bostick
filed a Motion to Remand, which this Court denied.
The Court conducted a two-week jury trial, which began on
permitted the jurors to pose questions to the witnesses, and
the jury was active and engaged during every phase of the
proceedings. The jury began deliberating on the afternoon of
Friday October 27, 2017.
On that fateful Friday, the Court
received several notes from various jurors.
The first notes
related to what seemed like reasonable and routine requests
that trial courts customarily receive -- a request for an
interpretation of a jury instruction regarding corporations
and a request for access to the “whiteboard” an expert used
during the trial. (Doc. ## 144-52, 144-50).
The Court then
received several urgent messages from the jurors related to
The Court apprised counsel of the tense
Samelton, because the other jurors indicated that Mr. Samelton
threatened them with physical violence.
However, in an abundance of fairness, the Court spoke
with the concerned jurors outside of the presence of counsel
and then sent the jurors home.
The Court instructed the jury
to return at 9:00 on the following Monday morning.
Samelton explained that he had an appointment related to the
payment of his electric bills on Monday morning, but that he
would try to make it.
The Court indicated to Mr. Samelton
that he should try to make it to Court on Monday, but if he
could not make it, she would allow the jury to continue their
deliberations without him because only six jurors were needed
in order to return a verdict.
The Events of Monday October 30, 2017
On Monday, October 30, 2017, all of the jurors appeared
for deliberations, including Mr. Samelton.
From the very
beginning of the day, members of the jury complained that one
particular juror, Mr. Samelton threatened to punch and harm
In addition, Mr. Samelton, gave the Court a letter
explaining that he left the Courthouse in tears because he
felt as though his vote did not matter. (Doc. # 144-57).
Court decided to bring each juror into the Courtroom for
questioning on the record.
The attorneys and the Court
peppered the jurors with questions.
dismissed Mr. Samelton for cause.
Ultimately, the Court
The Court did so based on
the testimony below.
The Juror Interviews
Samelton used profanity, threats of physical violence, racial
slurs, and other actions that demonstrated disrespect for the
other jurors. (Doc. # 159 at 1-6). Defense counsel asked Mr.
Moffitt if Mr. Samelton’s actions put the jurors “in fear
physically for their safety” and Mr. Moffitt answered: “Yes.”
(Id. at 6).
Defense counsel also asked Mr. Moffitt whether
others?” and Mr. Moffitt again answered: “Yes.” (Id. at 7).
The next juror to be questioned was Thomas Barone. He
indicated that Mr. Samelton “wanted something to start” and
altercation. (Id. at 11).
The third juror to be interviewed
was Marlene Peterson. She stated that Mr. Samelton used
profanity, was yelling, was “disrespectful to the other jurors
verbally” and “called other members of the jury stupid just
because of the disagreement.” (Id. at 15-16). Ms. Peterson
also testified that Mr. Samelton refused to follow the Court’s
jury instructions. (Id. at 19).
The fourth juror to be interviewed was Deborah Engert.
deliberations, Ms. Engert testified:
Some of them were threatened about getting hit. . .
. One of the jurors said that he was going to hit
someone; and they said, If that’s what you need to
do, go ahead. And he said, Well, I’ve been in jail
before, so it doesn’t matter. We were called – I
hate to say it. We were called white asses and the
B word and F-U. And it was bad. He didn’t want to
work with anybody. . . . I mean, we were in tears.
The girls were in tears Friday when we left here.
(Id. at 20-21).
The next juror to be interviewed by counsel and the Court
was Minh Le.
Mr. Le described his interaction with Mr.
Samelton as follows:
last week there was one person. I mean, when we
tried to discuss the case together as a group, he
basically didn’t want to do it. Basically he just
said, This is what I want, and either you guys
accept it or it’s going to be a mistrial. Don’t
talk to me. He’s just laying there. We tried to
talk to him, to get him to discuss about this
points. Also, this morning, too, we tried to put
aside whatever happened last week. . . . He say,
This is what I want, and nothing else.
want to listen.
(Id. at 24).
Mr. Le further testified that Mr. Samelton
“refused to follow the [jury] instructions . . . . He just
want to do his way.
That’s basically all.” (Id. at 25-26).
The sixth juror to be interviewed was Bruce MacFarlane,
First day we were here, he wanted to be the foreman
of the jury, the one person.
From there on, it
went into a matter of disrespect if you didn’t do
something he wanted. Like leaving early on certain
days. . . . And we took all these notes, and we
have all the results of what the trial had given
us. So we were supposed to work on that, but that
wasn’t the issue.
It was whether he was
disrespected or not.
So it came down to it was
about him, not the case.
(Id. at 28). Defense counsel asked Mr. MacFarlane whether he
felt “physically intimidated” by Mr. Samelton. Mr. MacFarlane
responded: “Well, yes.
He did use some rather bad words.
had both of those women crying in there.
He’s so big.
stood up in front of the other tall guy and it was face to
face, chest to chest.
It looked like there could have been
some demonstrative action taken on his part.” (Id. at 30).
Defense counsel also asked: “Is it your impression that he is
intentionally not wanting to follow the instructions of the
Court and the law that were given because he’s mad about not
being the foreman?”
Mr. MacFarlane answered “Yes.” (Id. at
Defense counsel asked
whether Mr. Samelton’s behaviors
were aimed at “revenge” and Mr. MacFarlane explained “It has
nothing to do with the case. It has to do with him.” (Id.).
The last juror to be interviewed by counsel and the Court
was Mr. Samelton.
For his part, he said: “I was just
concerned about, I guess, people trying to sway me a certain
way.” (Id. at 35). The Court asked Mr. Samelton “Do you think
that you are able to continue deliberating with the other
jurors or not?” and he responded: “I doubt it.
No.” (Id. at
The Court asked why, and Mr. Samelton stated: “I don’t
know how to put it.
I put it as since there are seven of us
and we all weigh a ton and there are six ton hammers pounding
on the one-ton nail and it’s going to go deeper and deeper
into the hole until it gets to the point you can’t pull it
out, and so I feel that’s where I’m at.” (Id.).
gave both sides the opportunity to ask Mr. Samelton questions
and both sides took advantage of the opportunity.
heard oral argument from the parties regarding whether Mr.
Samelton should be released.
Plaintiff’s counsel objected,
but the Court ultimately excused Mr. Samelton. (Id. at 46).
After carefully listening to each juror, the Court ultimately
determined that it was absolutely necessary to excuse Mr.
Samelton for the safety of the jurors.
The Court determined
that even the Court Security Offers’s presence could not
ensure the physical safety of each juror.
The Jury Reaches a Verdict
Shortly after Mr. Samelton was excused, the jury reached
a verdict in favor of State Farm on October 30, 2017. (Doc. #
At the conclusion of the trial, in conformity with
Local Rule 5.01(d), the Court orally instructed the parties
not to contact any juror.
That Rule states:
No attorney or party shall undertake, directly or
indirectly, to interview any juror after trial in
any civil or criminal case except as permitted by
this Rule. If a party believes that grounds for
legal challenge to a verdict exist, he may move for
an order permitting an interview of a juror or
jurors to determine whether the verdict is subject
to the challenge.
The motion shall be served
within fourteen (14) days after rendition of the
verdict unless good cause is shown for the failure
to make the motion within that time. The motion
shall state the name and address of each juror to
be interviewed and the grounds for the challenge
that the moving party believes may exist.
presiding judge may conduct such hearings, if any,
as necessary, and shall enter an order denying the
motion or permitting the interview.
interview is permitted, the Court may prescribe the
place, manner, conditions, and scope of the
Judgment in favor of State Farm was entered on October
31, 2017. (Doc. # 145).
On November 2, 2017, Bostick filed a
“Notice of Juror Contact and Request for Hearing,” explaining:
“On November 1, 2017, at approximately 2:37 PM and again at
Plaintiff’s Counsel’s office requesting to speak.” (Id. at 1).
State Farm responded to the Notice (Doc. # 149), and the Court
held a hearing on the matter on November 7, 2017. (Doc. #
The Court listened carefully to counsel’s remarks and
orally denied Bostick’s request to further interview any
At the hearing, the Court explained that counsel for
both sides already had the opportunity to interview the jurors
and that it was neither necessary nor appropriate to have
further communications with any juror. (Doc. # 153).
III. Another Request to Interview the Jury
At this juncture, Bostick requests the opportunity to
interview the entire jury “in that Plaintiff believes that
grounds for a legal challenge to the verdict exists.” (Doc. #
157 at 1). Bostick argues: “A jury interview under Local Rule
5.01(d) is warranted given the totality of the circumstances
which include the juror five’s dismissal over Plaintiff’s
objection, the presence of racial tension, the possibility
that the contacting juror was a hold-out juror acting within
his rights to agree or disagree, and other matters stemming
(Id. at 4).
The Court denies the Motion because the Court has already
misconduct issues arose, the Court called each juror into the
Courtroom and gave counsel for both sides the opportunity to
question the jurors.
The Court finds that it would be
redundant to repeat the inquiry.
The trial is over, and a
verdict has been reached.
The decision whether to allow the parties to interview
jurors is within the sound decision of the trial court. See
United States v. Hooshmand, 931 F.2d 725, 737 (11th Cir.
1991)(affirming denial of a motion to conduct juror interviews
when a juror stated: “I voted for [the verdict] but it was not
my verdict . . . I had no choice.
It was 11 to 1."); United
1990)(affirming trial court’s denial of juror interview after
defendant received an anonymous phone call from a “woman,
possibly a juror,” who stated “we were pressured into making
The court also denied juror interviews in
United States v. Riley, 544 F.2d 237, 242 (5th Cir. 1976),
explaining: “Historically, interrogatories of jurors have not
been favored by federal courts except where there is a showing
of illegal or prejudicial intrusion into the jury process. .
. . Courts simply will not denigrate jury trials by afterwards
ransacking the jurors in search of some ground, not previously
supported, for a new trial.”
The Court already granted the extraordinary
relief of allowing counsel to interview each and every juror.
That was the time and the place to pose questions to the
The Court refuses to intrude into the lives of the
jurors, who so amply gave of their time and attention during
a two-week trial.
These jurors have every right to move
forward with their lives without any further intrusion from
the parties or the Court.
The Motion is thus denied.
Accordingly, it is hereby
ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED:
Plaintiff Lisa N. Bostick’s Motion for Jury Interview
(Doc. # 157) is DENIED.
DONE and ORDERED in Chambers, in Tampa, Florida, this 8th
day of March, 2018.
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