“Technical Problems” During Trial Can Be Enough To Overturn An $800,000 Verdict (PA)
In Escalante v. State Farm, the Pennsylvania Superior Court found that a software glitch during jury selection was unfair and prejudicial to the defense, and sufficient grounds to overturn the $800,000 judgment in plaintiffs’ favor.
Plaintiff’s suit against State Farm for underinsured motorist benefits recently went to trial. The trial court used paper questionnaires, to be filled out by each prospective juror and then forwarded to the attorneys for the parties. However, a technical malfunction in the court’s computer system caused the answers to be changed, and incorrect information was provided to the parties and their attorneys. The error was not discovered until after the jury reached its verdict. By that time, the forms had been destroyed.
The court overturned the verdict after State Farm filed a post-judgment motion. The court reasoned that under Pennsylvania Statute, the selection of the jury was improper because it involved clear errors and omissions, i.e. the form. Further, because the forms were destroyed, the court had no way to know how the attorneys and parties were impacted. The court maintained that the multiple errors in the forms made it so the attorneys for the defense were unwittingly deceived. Ultimately, in its simplest form, the court overturned the verdict because of a computer glitch.
Thanks to John Lang for his contribution to this post. Should you have any questions, please contact Tom Bracken.