Brownsville, Texas woman Rosa Martinez who was paralyzed in 2002 from the neck down in a Ford Explorer rollover accident has not yet received any of the $3 million settlement that Ford Motor Company agreed to after one of the jurors at her trial sent a note to the judge asking, “What is the maximum amount that can be awarded?”
Initially, Ford was relieved to only have to pay $3 million, having discussed sums as large as $6 million in earlier settlement discussions.
When Ford later found out that the jury had been leaning 11-1 against Martinez, and that the note to the judge was written and sent by the only dissenting juror, Cynthia Cortez, the company’s lawyers asked the Brownsville court to void the settlement, claiming it had been fraudulently obtained.
Martinez’s lawyers accuse Ford of making unsupported accusations of jury misconduct to try to void a legally binding agreement.
Besides, guessing wrong about a jury’s intent is no grounds for reversal, lawyer Roger Hughes argued. "Anyone who settles a case based on a jury note assumes the risk their assumptions are mistaken," he wrote in court briefs.
Hughes also warned that if Ford prevails, lower courts may be forced to indulge other litigants who suffer from "buyer’s remorse" after settling a lawsuit. -Chuck Lindell and Corrie MacLaggan, American Statesman.
Ford, however, maintains that an outside party may have influenced Cortez’s sending of the note, or alternately, that Cortez was deliberately trying to manipulate the outcome of the case.
"We strongly suspect that (Cortez) sent that note in a deliberate effort to mislead the parties," Craig Morgan, a lawyer for Ford, told the Supreme Court during oral arguments in February. "We want to conduct discovery into the circumstances surrounding the sending of this note."
To force jurors to answer questions under oath, Ford will have to overcome a bedrock legal principle that allows most jury deliberations to remain secret. The prospect of weakening jury privacy led several justices to closely question Ford’s lawyer during oral arguments. -Chuck Lindell and Corrie MacLaggan, American Statesman.
In the meantime, the paralyzed Martinez must receive direct care 24 hours a day in a nursing home that Medicaid (i.e. our tax dollars) pays for. She has said that she would use the settlement money to buy and renovate an accessible home for herself.