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USA: Google's impact on a jury verdict


The South Dakota Supreme Court upheld a trial court's decision that granted a motion for a new trial alleging jury misconduct.
The plaintiff had claimed that the seat belts unlatched during a deadly accident because they were negligently designed. He brought suit against the manufacturer Takata Corporation and its American Subsidiary, TK Holdings, Inc. Prior to the trial the then prospective juror Flynn conducted two quick Google searches, one for Takata, one for TK Holdings. It was revealed to him that Takata is a seat belt and airbag manufacturer and that TK Holdings is the American subsidiary of Takata.
During the trial evidence was presented that Takata had notice its seat belts were defective. At least four drivers claimed their seatbelts had come unbuckled during accidents. Ten other lawsuits had been filed against Takata.
During deliberation, juror Flynn told another juror about his web search. He said he did not find any information on other lawsuits during his search. Three other jurors heard the exchange. The jury finally reached its verdict for the defense.

Following a motion by the plaintiff, the trial court set aside the verdict on finding that one juror had introduced extrinsic evidence into deliberation that prejudiced the jury and swayed the outcome. Extrinsic evidence includes "knowledge relevant to the facts in issue not obtained through the introduction of evidence but acquired prior to trial."

The Supreme court agreed, but did not announce a "hard and fast rule that all such types of internet research by a juror prior to trial without notice to the court and counsel automatically doom a jury's verdict. Rather, as we do in such cases, we give deference to the trial court, which had the distinct advantage of being present throughout the nineteen-day trial."
For more information see: Jensen, Gary, How the Internet is impacting our legal system, KOTA Territory News



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