A Small Town's Big Verdict Leads to Ugly Charges

Texas judge rejects Ford's charge that juror's link with attorney tainted jury

Discounting Ford Motor Co.'s claims of jury misconduct, a Texas state judge has denied the automaker's request for a new trial involving a $28 million verdict in an Explorer rollover accident that killed two teenagers.

Ford had alleged the jury was tainted and possibly corrupted by one juror -- the city manager of a small Texas town -- who allegedly was romantically involved with a plaintiffs attorney, and who allegedly pressured the jury into ruling against Ford. The attorney alleged in the romance is Jesse Gamez of San Antonio.

But on May 17, Judge Amado Abascal of Texas' 365th District Court rejected Ford's claims, finding that Ford failed to prove that its right to a fair trial was compromised by jury misconduct. Ford is appealing.

"In my 27 years of law practice throughout the state of Texas, and throughout the western United States, I have never seen a more egregious case of jury misconduct than this," said Ford attorney David Prichard, calling the alleged runaway juror "a bad seed that wanted to get on this jury at all costs.

"She used her influence, clearly, to manipulate and sway the jury in favor of her boyfriend/business partner's clients," alleged Prichard of Prichard Hawkins McFarland & Young in San Antonio.

Plaintiffs attorney Mikal Watts of the Watts Law Firm in Corpus Christi, Texas, called Ford's claims "outrageous," and accused the automaker of "trying to smear the names of the jurors with no factual basis whatsoever.

Details here from The National Law Journal via Law.com.