The Missouri Court of Appeals’ Eastern District upheld a $21 million verdict for the victims of a helicopter crash caused by unmarked power lines. The Court found that the fact that the jury forewoman said during voir dire that she had sympathy for the plaintiffs and would find it difficult to set aside her emotions was not grounds for reversal of the case.
The court relied on the fact that the forewoman had also said, “I think I can be fair” in deciding the case. “The critical question in reviewing the exercise of discretion is whether the challenged venire persons indicated unequivocally their ability to evaluate the evidence fairly and impartially,” wrote Judge Paul J. Simon on behalf of the Court.
“The trial judge was there and heard the inflection in her voice,” said plaintiff’s counsel Grant L. Davis of Davis, Bethune & Jones. “The appeals court deferred to the trial judge under the abuse of discretion standard. She was as nice and straightforward as you’re going to get, totally believable.”
The defense’s request that the verdict be reduced was also rejected by the Court. “This court has reaffirmed the belief that human life has a great value,” Davis said. “Missouri courts have always held that juries have a wide discretion in deciding on wrongful death verdicts.”
Davis noted that in addition to the $21 million verdict, the plaintiffs were also entitled to $9 million in prejudgment interest.
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