Friday, September 7, 2007

Jury Duty

I feel like I've been gone forever for the last two days. I was called to Jury Duty about a month ago for Wednesday, September 5th. I showed up with 31 other possible jurors. After being interviewed for 3 1/2 - 4 hours, I was actually selected by both lawyers to be one of the jurors for a two day trial. Only eight of us were chosen. I kind of wondered if I would be picked because I'm not an extremely opinionated person. I can always see both sides. I tell you it is hard to come up with the best solution for everyone. I'm so glad I don't have to judge anyone in the next life. I also can see why it is so important to hire a GOOD lawyer and that if you are ever in any kind of accident, take pictures of everything, including your injuries.

If you're interested in the case, keep reading. The case was a civil lawsuit involving a car accident. Usually these things are settled out of court. But both sides felt very strongly about their cases; and so it unfortunately went to court. I think both sides lost. Here is the scenario (I'll try to be short and to the point): The plaintiffs were two young and poor Hispanic people and the defendant (the one being sued) was a middle to upper class white male. This car accident happened almost four years ago in December 2003. So memories of everything are kind of foggy. The 18 yo from Argentina claims he was making a left hand lane change from the left hand lane (third lane) into the left turning lanes going from State Street in Orem to 800 North. He waited in line in traffic at a red light until the two-way turning lane (the middle lane between the two sides) ended before merging into the turning lanes. He claims that the white male was being negligent by passing everyone waiting in line when he merged into the two-way turning lane a few cars behind to get to the same left turning lanes on State Street. The 18 yo turned into the left turning lanes a split second before the white male approached causing them to collide. The 18 yo had two other passengers in the car- a 16 yo and a 14 yo girl. The 14 yo got a large "goose-egg" on her forehead which later turned into swelling throughout her face for three more weeks. She endures some lasting problems, such as her eye twitching when she reads for long periods of time, headaches about twice a week, slight pain in her neck and arm caused by a disc that's out of place. She says she can't be in loud places for long periods of time which has caused social isolation. The 18 yo claims he has headaches 2-3 times a week still, pain in his left eye, and scars on his two index fingers from biting them :) when he has the excruciating headaches. It takes him about two hours longer to do his work at the family business because of the constant headaches. Together they wanted $70 grand from the white male to cover both medical bills and pain and suffering.

The white male was on his way to drop off his wife and kids at his home to make it to a BYU basketball game when the accident happened. He feels that he did absolutely nothing illegal and that the 18 yo was actually trying to make a U-turn right there and not merging into the left turning lanes because of the speed that he shot out and because the 18 yo was looking at the southbound lanes and not at him. The defendant paid a forensic/UDOT guy (who okays all the lights, traffic signs, and lines in Orem) to come and reenact the accident for us. He said that after looking at the police reports, testimonies, photos of cars after accident, and plugging them into his computer program, that the evidence supported what the white male was saying: The 18 yo was indeed making a U-turn from a quick speed. He also said that travelling in the two-way lane was permissible for the white male. There was some debate on that from the plaintiff's lawyer, so I was still unclear what the law really was saying. We had to try and pick it apart as a jury to know what the overall consensus was on the law. We decided that the law said he could use that lane to prepare for a left turn at the turning lane as long as he was being safe in doing so. We felt that the overall feeling from everyone was that the white male was probably going a little too fast for road conditions and considering the traffic.

We had to place the amount of fault we thought each had (and we tried really hard to be fair). We decided that the 18 yo was 80% at fault due to the fact that he didn't use his blinker or even look to see if someone was coming up behind him to the left before he either merged or flipped the U-turn. We felt that it was irrelevant if he was merging or flipping a U-turn. We put 20% blame on the white male for driving faster than was probably safe in the two-way lane. We had to come up with how much the 14 yo should be compensated because she was truly the victim here. We decided that $10,000 covered her medical expenses and $7,500 covered her pain and suffering. Since the white male was 20% at fault, he has to pay 20% of $17,500 which is $3,500. I think he doesn't pay it out of pocket though. Even though no one said it, I'm also sure that the 14 yo had insurance that covered most of her medical bills, car insurance paid for the damage of the cars, and that the lawyers will take a good portion of their money. As for the 18 yo, he got nothing but lawyer bills because he was more than 50% at fault for the accident.

All in all, I feel mostly bad for the defendant because he was not the cause of the accident and he was the one getting sued. We got to talk with the lawyers and everyone after the case. They asked us questions about how we came to our conclusions and how the lawyers could have done better. The 14 yo was happy because she got some money, though it is little. Pretty sad though. I think everyone lost here. But I had a great time getting to know the other jurors. I don't think I've laughed so hard in such a long time. There were some hilarious guys there. It kind of made me want to go to work to have that social time. But, I realize the importance of my work as a mother, even though it feels like I've accomplished nothing most of the time. However, I think it helped Jarin appreciate what I do because he stayed home for those two days to watch the kids. Also, it helped me appreciate how tiring it is to work all day and then come home to a mad house. I'll reap the benefits of my reward as a mother when the kids are grown, I know. It'll all pay off in the end.


Donna said...

Hollie, I've never had to be on a jury. When you guys were little I was able to claim it as a hardship (which it was) to hire a babysitter and since you've grown up I've been lucky not to have been chosen as a juror. But you make it sound like it was kind of fun and interesting. I guess it depends on what the case is about and how long it goes on for.
I agree that you will reap the rewards of your sacrifices when the kids are grown up BUT you need time now for you. Too much giving and not enough filling equals one dried out sponge that desperately needs refilling. I think you need to surround yourself with upbeat positive people who you admire. I think you need an outlet during the week. Call me and we'll talk. Love ya

Scott said...

Jury duty does sound a bit fun but definitely hard with kids. Good thing Jarin was able to watch them for you and get a little dose of what you get everyday. Being a mom is an incredibly hard job but so worth it in the end. Sometimes I wonder if our husbands could handle it everyday :) Anyway, I'm glad the guy who was really at fault didn't win $70,000. People sue over the dumbest things (even when it is their fault).

Jennifer said...

Very interesting... like you said a sad situation all together. Those families have probably had too much time and emotions put into this. So,was the jury mixed ethnically? I hope so.

Kerrie said...

Yeah, I'd be chosen in a heartbeat to be a juror if I were called in. I am too indecisive...I guess Jake makes up for my lack of opinions :). Anyway, sounds like an interesting that did not need to go to court. Oh well, people are sue happy these days so that case was probably the norm.

Hollie said...

The jury wasn't really that ethnically diverse, considering we live in Utah. There was one guy whose last name was Chavez and he looked darker. But he was definitely born and raised here w/o any spanish speaking skills. One guy was actually born in Argentina; but there was no way to know because he looked white. I've since learned that some people make a living suing other peole. I learned that a neighbor a few houses down from me is/was in the middle of six lawsuits from people who tried to help her. I guess I'd better watch my back.