Thursday, March 29, 2012

Doing My Civic Duty

This morning I headed to the magistrate's to report for my first ever jury duty.  It's amazing to me that in the 17 years since I've been of legal voting age this is the first time I've ever been summoned. I was actually a little nervous when the envelope came in the mail and I saw "Small Claims Court". My first thought was "Is someone suing me?". I let out a little sigh of relief when I opened the envelope and saw that it was for jury duty.

Anyway, this morning I reported promptly at 9:00 (after hauling ass to get there in time) and took my place among the 15 other prospective jurors. We listened to the judge, did our introductions, and answered all the questions. Only 6 people would be chosen for the jury so I figured I had a better chance not getting called than having to serve.  The lawyers and judge came back out after doing their behind the scenes discussions and the judge started calling out names. Guess who got called first? Yep - yours truly. Awesome.

We listened to instructions from the judge and were told that it was a case about an auto accident and medical bills. Sweet. We got shuffled into the jury room and were told to select a foreperson and decide if we'd want to break for lunch. After a while we were brought back into the jury box and the fun began.

First up was opening statements.  I was unimpressed with the plaintiff's attorney. Not much charisma and he seemed to stumble over his words a bit. The defense attorney was a little better - one point for the defense. We were given the facts of the case. The 67 year old defendant had rear ended the 30 year old plaintiff.  There was no damage to the car (they showed us pictures) and the defendant had admitted liability in the collision, but we needed to decide if the plaintiff had actually been injured and if the defendant should have to pay her $3,167 in medical bills. I didn't think this was something that would have a jury trial, but whatever.

The first witness was the chiropractor that the plaintiff had gone to after the accident. For someone who was going to be testifying at a trial he really didn't seem prepared. The first objection came from the defense regarding the plaintiff's medical file. We got sent back to the jury room while the lawyers and judge discussed it. After a few minutes we were brought back out and they continued. There were several objections (shoving us back to the jury room a couple more times) and then the plaintiff's lawyer finished up and it was time for cross examination. I had to stifle a laugh when he gave the chiropractor a print out of his practice's website and had him read a highlighted portion regarding how the practice can refer the patient to a lawyer to help with claims. Another point for the defense.

Next was a friend/co-worker of the plaintiff. I was put off by the fact that she kept her Bluetooth in her ear the entire time. Really? On the witness stand? Not necessary. Nothing much exiting happened with this witness.

Then the plaintiff's attorney called the defendant as the next witness. It turns out she had been on her way to the gym to walk on the treadmill when she skid and hit the plaintiff. I gave her a silent high five for keeping up an exercise routine as she got older.  The lawyer asked if she'd been on her cell phone at the time and she responded that she didn't have a cell phone. That made me smile.

Next up was the plaintiff.  She walked up to the stand in her tight pants and took her oath. When the questions started she gave a couple contradictory answers. Another objection and we were sent into the jury room again.   More testimony and she said when she got hit she flew forward and her chest hit the steering wheel. Was she not wearing a seatbelt? And she said her 7 month old had a mark on his chest from "the seatbelt". I was confused. Wouldn't he be in a rear facing car seat? Would that leave a mark if she was rear ended and not even hit hard enough to dent her bumper? When the defense questioned her about a dent that showed up on her car later she tried to say another body shop found that and that they told her her transmission was going out as a result of the accident. From being rear ended?  Then she said she only went to the first body shop because the defendant's insurance sent her there. The defendant's co-counsel let out a gasp and we were sent to the jury room again. A few minutes later we were brought back out and told that due to new circumstances our services were no longer needed and we were excused.

What? Come on - it was just getting good! We all gathered our stuff, went and signed out (so we'll get our $10 checks for serving) and were free for the rest of the day. The other young female juror and I chatted on the way out - turns out we were both leaning towards ruling for the defendant because the plaintiff's claims weren't adding up and she didn't seem credible. The fact that she had been to the same chiropractor for another accident prior to this accident made me think she was just trying to get stuff for free. We were a little bummed that we didn't get to deliberate, but happy to be done at 12:15 and have the rest of a gorgeous afternoon off.

I took the opportunity to get in a nice 5.25 mile run and picked the munchkin up early from daycare.  All in all it was an interesting experience and I was happy to serve. It doesn't hurt that my company will pay for up to 40 hours of jury duty time per year, so I wasn't out any PTO or anything. And tomorrow is Friday already. Hopefully tomorrow I can do my post about the little get together I had with my former labor buddy and fellow blogging mama yesterday. :)

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