BRENDA SAWICKI (SUBSTITUTED BY CHESTER J. SAWICKI, EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF BRENDA SAWICKI) v. NEW BRITAIN GENERAL HOSPITAL et al., SC 18479
Judicial District of Hartford
Juror Misconduct; Whether the Trial Court Improperly Denied the Plaintiff's Motion to Set Aside the Verdict Based Upon Juror Misconduct, and, if so, Whether a New Trial is Warranted. In this medical malpractice action, the trial court rendered a judgment in favor of the defendant in accordance with the jury's verdict. The plaintiff then moved to set aside the verdict based upon juror misconduct, and she submitted affidavits from two jurors in support of her motion. In those affidavits, the two jurors indicated that other jurors had evaluated the evidence and stated their positions prior to the close of the evidence and the court's submission of the case to the jury for deliberation. The two jurors further indicated that another juror stated his position on the case, which was that the plaintiff was going to lose, before any evidence was taken and had engaged other jurors in discussions regarding the merits of the case as the evidence was being introduced. The trial court held an evidentiary hearing during which it questioned the jurors, and it later denied the plaintiff's motion to set aside the verdict. The plaintiff subsequently appealed to the Appellate Court, challenging the denial of her motion. The Appellate Court (115 Conn. App. 25) reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the matter for a new trial. In so ruling, it determined that the trial court, instead of focusing on the nature and quality of the undisputed juror misconduct, based its decision on the jurors' assertions that they followed the court's jury instructions notwithstanding their predeliberation discussions. The Appellate Court further determined that in light of the serious nature and quality of the jury misconduct, the trial court's reliance on the jurors' statements that they kept their minds open was misplaced. It thus concluded that the trial court employed an incorrect legal analysis in determining whether the plaintiff was prejudiced by focusing its attention on the mental processes of the jurors and drawing conclusions from their testimony as to the actual effect of the misconduct, and not the probable effect of their misconduct as objectively judged by its nature and quality. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly reversed the trial court's judgment and properly ordered a new trial.