The city of Lawrence has responded to a woman's motion for a new trial in her lawsuit claiming the city was negligent in an April 1991 accident involving a city fire truck.
Collette R. Manzanares, 26, claimed in her motion that juror misconduct tainted her trial, which ended March 5 when jurors ruled she was not entitled to any damages.
Manzanares had sought $4.5 million from the city for injuries she suffered when the car she was driving slammed into a city fire truck that was parked in a no-parking zone on Wakarusa Drive.
John Cooley, attorney for the city, stated in a response filed this week in Douglas County District Court that Manzanares' motion "must fail" because it did not meet legal standards for a new trial.
Cooley argued that the state Supreme Court had ruled that juror misconduct was not a ground for a new trial unless the misconduct "substantially prejudiced" a litigant's right to a fair trial.
MANZANARES' motion, filed by her attorney, Pedro Irigonegaray, cited several examples of alleged misconduct. The motion keyed on actions of the jury foreman, saying he made biased comments against Manzanares during deliberations. The motion claimed that the foreman also performed an out-of-court driving experiment and then told jurors he "didn't see any reason why plaintiff (Manzanares) couldn't have stopped" before her car struck the fire truck.
Her motion was filed along with affadavits from two jurors about the jury foreman's comments.
Cooley argued that the foreman, John Sheppard, did not introduce anything that hadn't been presented during the trial. Sheppard's comments were "but a few of many, many comments made by the jurors and were made hours before the jury returned its verdict.
"Further, Mr. Sheppard did not attempt to influence the jurors with his comments," Cooley stated.
THE CITY'S motion also contains affadavits from 11 jurors, including Sheppard and one who submitted an affadavit for Manzanares.
Sheppard said that when he discussed his out-of-court experiment, "I qualified my statement to the jurors by stating that my vehicle and that of Ms. Manzanares were different and thus the slowing time of my vehicle and Ms. Manzanares' vehicle were different."
He said that when he told jurors about his findings, "I was merely reporting my experience and did not attempt to influence or persuade the jurors that my statement carried any particular weight."
Sheppard and other jurors stated that their verdict was based on evidence presented during the trial.
"We worked long and hard on this case; let's lay it to rest," stated an affadavit from juror Charles D. Nichols.