Trials & Litigation

Rogue Juror's Note Nixes $3M Pact, Ford Claims; Top Texas Court OKs Discovery

After a six-week trial in a products liability case over a Ford Explorer rollover accident, the forewoman of a jury in Brownsville, Texas, sent a note to the judge on the second day of deliberations. It read: “What is the maximum amount that can be awarded?”

At that point, lawyers for Ford Motor Co. quickly settled the case for $3 million, the Houston Chronicle reported in a commentary piece. Counsel for the plaintiffs was to get almost $2 million of that amount.

But then the case took an even more unusual wrong turn from the automaker’s standpoint. When Ford lawyers started talking to the jurors after the case was over, they learned most had intended to rule in Ford’s favor in the case. None had agree to send the note about damages to the judge, the newspaper writes.

Now, after contrary rulings by the trial judge and an appeals court, the Texas Supreme Court has agreed to allow Ford to pursue evidence of possible tampering or juror misconduct, in an effort to revoke the settlement.

At this point, the case is being pursued by the plaintiffs as a breach of settlement contract. And, after a Texas Supreme Court ruling earlier this month, Ford can now obtain discovery about juror conduct in the case.

If the automaker is eventually successful in overturning the settlement agreement, the result would be a new trial in the case, the supreme court notes in its April 3 written opinion (PDF). A concurring opinion (PDF) was also filed.

The 2002 rollover accident at issue in the case left the plaintiff paralyzed, and she is now in a nursing home, writes the Injury Board blog.

Related material:

Appellant’s Brief (PDF), Supreme Court of Texas

Appellee’s Brief (PDF), Supreme Court of Texas

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