Donnie D. King, Appellant,
Casey's General Stores, Inc., Appellee.
jury selection process allows the parties and the court an
opportunity to ask questions about potential jurors'
backgrounds, viewpoints, and proclivities in an effort to
ensure the individuals who serve on the jury perform their
role impartially and render a verdict based on the evidence
jury selection process does not require or guarantee a jury
of persons completely unfamiliar with a case. Instead, jury
selection is an effort to empanel jurors who, regardless of
background or acquaintance, can decide the case
impartially-that is, jurors who can exercise deliberate and
appellate court reviews a district court's grant or
denial of a motion for new trial for an abuse of discretion.
An appellate court will not find that a district court abused
its discretion in denying a motion for new trial based on
allegations of juror misconduct unless the party asserting
the error can show (1) the presence of juror misconduct and
(2) that the misconduct substantially prejudiced his or her
right to a fair trial.
most civil cases, the person asserting juror misconduct has
the burden to prove both that misconduct occurred and that he
or she was prejudiced by the problematic activity. When a
juror provides a false answer to a material question during
voir dire, however, a party need not separately prove that
the conduct undermined the fairness of the trial. Instead,
the juror's false answer itself is prejudicial, as it
deprived the parties of the opportunity to question him or
her further on that point, to seek to dismiss the juror for
cause, or to remove the juror with a peremptory strike.
district court's discretion in ruling on a motion for a
new trial is particularly important when there is conflicting
evidence regarding juror misconduct. Appellate courts do not
reweigh conflicting evidence and do not reassess jurors'
credibility in responding to questions during voir dire.
district court's conclusion that a party failed to prove
either juror misconduct or prejudice is a negative finding.
An appellate court will only overturn a negative finding when
the district court arbitrarily disregarded undisputed
evidence or relied on some extrinsic consideration such as
bias, passion, or prejudice to reach its decision.
Juror misconduct must be based on more than the failure to
volunteer information a potential juror speculates is
important to counsel.
from Rice District Court; Steven E. Johnson, judge.
Melinda G. Young, of Bretz & Young, L.L.C., of
Hutchinson, for appellant.
J. Laskowski, of The Law Office of Ronald J. Laskowski, of
Topeka, for appellee.
Arnold-Burger, C.J., Bruns and Warner, JJ.
King sued Casey's General Stores, Inc., claiming he was
injured when he slipped on the ice in a parking lot of a
Casey's store. On the second day of trial, after the
parties empaneled a jury and presented their opening
arguments, King alleged one of the jurors had spoken about a
settlement offer in the case with and in front of other
potential jurors during voir dire. The district court and
parties investigated the allegations, and the court found no
misconduct. Nevertheless, the court removed the juror out of
an abundance of caution and allowed the trial to proceed.
close of the trial, the jury found that King's injuries
were not the fault of any party. King now appeals the
district court's denial of his motion for a new trial
based on the alleged juror misconduct. We affirm.
Background Giving Rise to King's Allegations of Juror
slipped on ice in the parking lot of a Casey's store in
Lyons, Kansas. He subsequently filed a personal injury action
against Casey's. The trial originally scheduled in the
case was continued at the last minute for reasons not
entirely clear from the record, though the record does
reflect that the parties were exploring the possibility of a
settlement at that time. The case did not settle, however,
and proceeded to a jury trial two weeks later.
beginning of the jury selection process for the trial, the
district court informed the jury pool that "[t]he whole
purpose of [voir dire] is to find an impartial jury."
The court further explained that attorneys for both parties
would ask the potential jurors questions "to find out if
you have any reason that you might be partial in some way
that would disqualify you from proceeding."
parties commenced voir dire, with King asking the first
questions. During Casey's portion of the examination, the
district court excused a potential juror for cause and seated
Juror J.W. on the jury panel. The parties then had the
opportunity to ask J.W. questions about, among other things,
his knowledge of and connection to the case.
counsel began this process by observing that J.W. had heard
all the questions asked up to that point, and asked whether
there was "anything that . . . would cause [J.W.] to
have [a] problem with being on this jury." J.W.
indicated that he knew one of the witnesses-an employee at
Casey's-because the witness previously owned a bar J.W.
would visit. The attorney then asked whether there was
anything about J.W.'s acquaintance with the witness that
"would cause [J.W.] to be unable to decide the issues in
this case fairly." J.W. answered, "No, sir."
Casey's counsel followed this line of questioning by
asking, "Anything else jump out that would cause you a
problem deciding this case impartially?" J.W. responded,
was King's turn to examine J.W., his attorney's
questions were limited to structural concerns-whether J.W.
had strong opinions about lawyers or lawsuits and whether he
would have difficulty awarding damages for pain and
suffering. After a short exchange, ...