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Florida Third DCA reverses defense verdict in motor vehicle negligence case and remands for new trial because of trial court’s erroneous denial of plaintiff’s motion to strike prospective juror for cause

On May 5, 2021, in Rivas v. Sandoval, No. 3D19-2402, the Florida Third DCA reversed a jury verdict for the defendant in motor vehicle negligence case and remanded the case for a new trial after concluding that the trial court erred in denying plaintiff counsel’s motion to strike a prospective juror for cause. The Third DCA noted that the prospective juror had stated that his previous experience with a motor vehicle negligence claim against his son made it difficult for him to remain impartial in his evaluation of the facts and evidence in this case. He stated that he did not believe the plaintiff in his son’s case was injured enough to claim the $100,000 policy limits. For support of hisstatement, the juror interrupted counsel’s questions to say that the plaintiffin his son’s case “was never taken to the hospital in an ambulance.” The Third DCA concluded that in a case such as this, involving a plaintiff who did not immediately receive medical treatment for her most severe long-term injuries, the prospective juror’s statements “evinced abias in favor of the defendant and against the plaintiff by insinuating a preference for limited damages.” The Third DCA quoted from its prior decision in Rodriguez v. Lagomasino, 972 So. 2d 1050, 1053 (Fla. 3d DCA 2008): “This court has consistently held that it is error for a court to force a party to exhaust his peremptory challenges on persons who should be excused for cause since it has the effect of abridging the right to exercise peremptory challenges.”