According to a recent American Bar Association Journal article written by Scott Carlson, trial consultants are turning to a proprietary software and technology information service for a product called Voltaire for jury selection. At least in my jury trial experience, selecting the jury is the most difficult and anxiety-ridden part of a trial. It must also be considered the most important aspect of the trial.

In practice, I have used trial consultants regularly to help select jurors who would be most receptive to the kind of case brought before them. Trial consultants are extremely objective in how they evaluate prospective jurors, their backgrounds, experiences, work histories and family backgrounds and are essential in the jury selection process. There’s been no practical way to search on the fly what the social media references show about a potential juror. That information could be especially valuable to deselect a prospective jury member.

The days of human-to-human contact in jury selection may be changing. Instead, lawyers could eventually rely on the technical information services of a software product such as Voltaire to pick appropriate jurors.

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The issue in this case was whether the financial condition of Wexford Health Sources, the defendant in this federal lawsuit, is relevant for Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b) to apply. This rule limits discovery to that which is “relevant to any party’s claim or defense.” If a corporate defendant’s wealth may not be considered when assessing punitive damages, it is not “relevant,” but if it may be properly considered then, of course, it is relevant. In this U.S. Federal District Court of Illinois (Central District) lawsuit, the initial question to be answered was whether Wexford’s financial condition could be investigated through discovery; this was answered mostly by the case of Zazu Design v. L’Oréal, 979 F.2d 499 (7th Cir. 1992).

In Zazu, a case relied upon by Wexford, the defendant in this case, the court considered the defendant’s appeal in a trademark infringement action. The court reversed and remanded, finding that the plaintiff did not have superior rights in trademark to the defendant and, even if it had, the damages award was excessive.

Regarding the punitive damages award, the court noted that although courts “take account of a defendant’s wealth when an amount sufficient to punish or deter one individual may be trivial to another,” such may not be the case when the defendant is a corporation. The court explained:

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A Cook County jury signed a verdict for $1,100,000 for Martin Bader and his wife Julia. They sued Giovanni Melendez-Ortiz in 2015 when it was alleged that the defendant, Melendez-Ortiz, was negligent as he drove across the center line on Green Bay Road near Keith Avenue in Waukegan, Ill., and drove the wrong way on Green Bay Road. In doing so, Melendez-Ortiz crashed head-on into the Bader vehicle.

The jury’s verdict of $1.1 million was made up of the following damages:

  • $72,487.48 for past medical expenses;
  • $50,000 for future medical care;
  • $250,000 for past loss of normal life;
  • $250,000 for future loss of normal life;
  • $250,000 for past pain and suffering; and
  • $250,000 for future pain and suffering.

The total verdict reached was $1,122,487.48.

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Doug Miller owned two companies in Indiana:  E.T. Products, which blended and sold fuel-additive products, and Petroleum Solutions, which blended and sold lubricant products.

Petroleum Solutions also supplied a few customers with fuel additives from E.T. Products.

In January 2011, a group of investors led by Tom Blakemore purchased E.T. Products. As part of the sale, Miller and his son, Tracy, signed essentially identical non-competition agreements.

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Joan Grove was standing at an intersection in downtown Pittsburgh during rush hour. She was in her fifties at the time. While a bus was attempting to pass another car near the intersection, the driver of that commuter bus came close to the curb where Grove stood. The bus struck Grove, and she fell to the ground.

While lying on the ground, the bus’s rear wheel ran over her right lower leg. Grove suffered a crush injury to that leg. She later developed a MRSA infection and osteomyelitis, which led to the amputation of her leg.

Grove sued the Port Authority of Allegheny County claiming that its driver chose not to keep a proper lookout during rush hour. The defendant maintained that Grove had stepped into the bus’s path by standing on the outside curb margin.

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The Illinois Appellate Court has upheld a record-breaking $21.4 million jury verdict for a railroad conductor after his heel was irreparably damaged at a railyard.

The Illinois Appellate Court for the 1st District rejected all of Norfolk Southern Railway Co.’s attempts to either vacate or reduce the verdict signed by the jury in favor of the plaintiff, Michael Parsons.

Parsons’s November 2015 jury verdict was the largest reported verdict or settlement for a heel-related injury in Cook County. Norfolk Southern was unable to persuade the 1st District Illinois Appellate Court that the jury’s verdict went against the evidence and that the defendant railroad was prejudiced by the jury instructions.

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In 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court cast doubt on the legality of mandatory union fees for non-union members. The opinion of the high court did not strike the fee as being a constitutional violation; instead, they commented that the precedent validating the fees “appeared questionable on several grounds.”

That case decision, Pamela Harris v. Pat Quinn, encouraged those who oppose mandatory union fees; thus it is another Illinois case that is poised to be heard and decided by the high court. This new case is Mark Janus v. American Federal of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which was filed in 2015. Gov. Bruce Rauner was originally a party plaintiff in the case, but he was dismissed. Other state workers argued that part of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Acts, which allows for the dues, violates the First Amendment because they help pay for unions’ political activity.

The plaintiffs in this case claim that nonmembers are still forced to pay 79 and 98 percent, respectively, of what full members of AFSCME and the Teamsters/Professional & Technical Employees Local Union are required to pay.

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Tom Gillette parked his pickup truck in a residential neighborhood in Everett, Wash. He was there doing construction work on a home. As he was unloading sawhorses from the back of his truck, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Deputy John Sadro, who was transporting a witness to court, ran a stop sign while traveling 49 mph in a 25 mph zone. Another motorist, who had the right-of-way, broadsided the police cruiser, causing it to spin around and strike Gillette, pinning him between the police cruiser and the bumper of his truck.

Gillette was 59 years old at the time; he suffered severe crush injuries to both of his legs, which were almost fully traumatically amputated at the scene. He was hospitalized and nearly died from blood loss. Doctors were unable to save either of his legs. His left leg was amputated just below the knee while his right leg was amputated at the knee.

Gillette underwent more than 12 surgeries and spent nearly two months in the hospital. Now he uses a wheelchair and requires some assistance with daily living activities. His past medical expenses totaled more than $425,000 and his future care costs are estimated at more than $1,300,000.

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A Jackson County, Ill., jury has signed a verdict for $2.3 million for Frank Adams who suffered a shoulder injury and abnormal scarring condition after he dodged a vehicles in a rear-end crash.

Adams was working as an Illinois Department Transportation (IDOT) flagger at the time of the crash. He sued pest-control company Terminix and its employee Brian Doll in 2015 claiming that Doll consciously ignored several school-zone signs and IDOT work warnings before causing the collision with an Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) van in March 2014.

The jury’s verdict, which included $2,500 in punitive damages, is the highest verdict ever reported from Jackson County, Ill., according to the Jury Verdict Reporter. Adams had stopped the Illinois Department of Corrections van driven by Charles Ray Borum, which contained eight inmates at the time, because IDOT workers were trimming trees along Illinois Route 146 near Pope County High School.

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The Illinois Appellate Court for the 1st District has held that a Taiwanese bicycle company will remain a party defendant in a lawsuit filed by an Illinois resident who was injured after the fork of her bicycle snapped in half without warning.

The appeals panel has found that Giant Manufacturing Ltd., a Taiwanese company, was within the personal jurisdiction of Janet Kowal’s lawsuit. In 2013, she sued Giant Manufacturing in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Giant Manufacturing is the Taiwanese company that makes Giant bicycles. The lawsuit included as defendants other entities who sold or did maintenance work on her Giant bike.

Because Giant Manufacturing, through its United States subsidiary and its authorized retailers, had enough of a deliberate presence within Illinois, the court held that the company could be potentially liable in the lawsuits involving one of its products.  The case was appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court on an interlocutory basis.

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