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Workers' Comp Re-Trial Ordered by Judge

A 14-year-old workers' compensation trial involving the former Montana Power Company calls for a new trial as mandated by a local judge after determining that juror misconduct led to a premature / unwarranted dismissal of the verdict involved in the case. According to District Judge K. Krueger, the need for a new trial is due to the fact that one of the jurors involved in the case presented outside information to other jurors on the trial during the heat of deliberations. The trial, which spanned an entire month, ended in February on an 8-4 verdict in favor of Montana Power, enabling the company to forego paying damages for a civil case that was filed in 1998 on behalf of 141 plaintiffs.

As alleged by plaintiffs of the case, Montana Power did not pay them their workers' comp benefits in a timely manner. However, officials at the power company argued otherwise, claiming that all plaintiffs were provided with the benefits owed to them and they were received in a reasonable amount of time. According to Montana Power Company, plaintiffs were seeking more than just their workers' compensation benefits. In addition, they were looking for interest on their payments as well as damages for emotional distress. Upon close review of the trial, it was discovered that one juror in particular seemed to be dispelling "insider" information to fellow jurors on the panel, specifically sharing personal information about one of the plaintiffs.

After discussing about the deliberations with jurors, it was requested that a new trial be provided to the plaintiffs that were affected by the 8-4 ruling against them. Although jurors claim that their decisions were not in any way influenced by the outside information disclosed to them, Judge Krueger ruled in favor of a new trial on behalf of the plaintiffs involved. The judge's decision was tied to the fact that specific information about workers' compensation was brought to the attention of panel jurors and it was information that was not presented at trial. In addition, it was found that the juror in question also presented information about one plaintiff in particular, claiming that the plaintiff had a history of filing workers' comp claims.

Apparently, the juror under scrutiny is said to have known one of the plaintiffs for many years. However, he did not share that information with anyone during jury selection. As such, the proceedings of the case could have – and seem likely to have been – adversely affected by the additional information provided by the juror. In reaction, a re-trial has been called by Krueger. Whether or not it will ultimately play out will only be told with time, as some have threatened to appeal the decision. Any matter concerning a matter of this nature should not be handled without instruction and guidance from a legal professional. Therefore, we advise that you contact a Raleigh workers' comp lawyer from the Whitley Law Firm as soon as possible.

Categories: Workers' Compensation

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