JULI D. WARD, Plaintiff/Appellant,
SARA MORRISON, Defendant/Appellee.
Mandate Issued: 05/09/2018
FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF TULSA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA HONORABLE
REBECCA BRETT NIGHTINGALE, TRIAL JUDGE.
Smith, Charles G. Smart, CARR & CARR, Oklahoma City,
Oklahoma, for Plaintiff/Appellant.
D. Van Dalsem, TAYLOR, RYAN, MINTON & VAN DALSEM, P.C.,
Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Defendant/Appellee.
F. FISCHER, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Plaintiff Juli Ward appeals from the district court's
order denying her motion for new trial, in which she had
raised allegations of misconduct by jurors during voir dire.
Ward has not demonstrated that the district court acted
arbitrarily, abused its discretion, or materially and
manifestly erred in denying her motion for new trial. The
district court's order denying Ward's motion for new
trial is affirmed.
filed this action against Defendant Sara Morrison alleging
that she had sustained injuries and damages in an automobile
collision resulting from Morrison's negligent operation
of her vehicle. The matter was tried to a jury, which
returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Morrison on August
19, 2015. On September 22, the district court entered
judgment on the jury's verdict. On the following day,
Ward filed a motion for new trial.
based her motion for new trial on 12 O.S.2011 § 651 (2).
She claimed she had "circumstantial evidence" that
she believed was sufficient to support a finding of juror
misconduct. Ward alleged that six of the jurors -- four who
delivered the unfavorable verdict and two who were stricken
by peremptory challenges -- had been involved in prior
litigation and failed to disclose that information when
responding to the district court's initial questions
during voir dire.  In support of her motion for new
trial, Ward submitted copies of district court docket entries
her counsel had printed following a post-trial online search
of all the jurors' names on the Oklahoma State Courts
Network website. Ward claimed that the online investigation
of the panel revealed district court case records containing
the names, or names similar to, those of the identified
jurors, indicating their involvement in litigation. She
stated: "[I]t 'appears' that juror misconduct
has taken place."
Ward's deliberate use of the phrase "it
'appears' that juror misconduct has taken place,
" acknowledged "the difficulty in conclusively
knowing that the person named in the attached court records
is the same as the person who sat as a juror or prospective
juror in this case." Nevertheless, Ward maintained that
jurors' untruthful responses deprived her of the right to
adequately question them about prior litigation and inquire
whether those lawsuits affected their ability to impartially
consider her case. And for that reason, Ward argued that the
district court was obligated to grant her a new trial, or at
least set the matter for an evidentiary hearing, so that she
could "subpoena those [identified] jurors and
prospective jurors... to testify before the Court."
Otherwise, Ward requested "direction on how the Court
wishes to proceed to satisfy itself that the people named in
the court documents are the same people who sat in this
her response and objection to Ward's motion for new
trial, Morrison pointed out that, even if it might appear
that certain jurors had not disclosed their complete
litigation history in response to the court's general
inquiry, the district court records submitted by Ward did not
reveal any cases similar to Ward's or any prior
relationship with either party or their counsel. Morrison
also pointed out that those court records related to
attempted debt collection and foreclosure (including in rem)
and had resulted in default judgments or dismissals. The
court records also involved domestic matters, which the
district court had discussed with the jurors during voir
I exclude those [from questions regarding involvement in
litigation] unless something happened in your case
involving a divorce or custody issue that was so traumatic
that even just sitting here in the courtroom it's
creating stress for you. If that's your situation, we
probably want to know about it. Otherwise, I don't
think you need to bring it up.
district court denied Ward's motion for new trial without
a hearing. Ward now seeks review in this Court, raising two
propositions of error. She claims that the district court
erred and a new trial is warranted due to misconduct by the
jurors. In a related proposition, Ward argues that the