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Florida Third DCA affirms judgment for plaintiff in medical negligence case, finds no clear error in trial court’s denial of defense attempt to exercise peremptory strike of African American juror

On March 24, 2021, in Hialeah Hospital, Inc. v. Hayes-Boursiquot, etc., No. 3D20-0050, the Florida Third DCA affirmed a jury verdict for the plaintiff in a medical negligence case, rejecting a defense argument that the trial court had committed reversible error by refusing to permit the exercise of a defense peremptory strike of an African-American potential juror. During jury selection, defense counsel sought to exercise peremptory strikes to excuse three potential jurors belonging to a protected class based on race, specifically, one Haitian-American and two African-American potential jurors. The trial court sustained a challenge by the plaintiff under Melbourne v. State, 679 So. 2d 759, 764 (Fla. 1996), to the third such challenge after finding what it considered to be an impermissible pattern of peremptory challenges based on race. Defense counsel had unsuccessfully proffered as a race-neutral explanation for the peremptory strike, claiming that it was due to the juror’s training and experience in the medical field as a licensed practical nurse. The Third DCA noted that it evaluated the trial court’s assessment of credibility under a “clearly erroneous” standard of review, citing Melendez v. State, 787 So. 2d 918, 920 (Fla. 3d DCA 2001).