When a Washington, D.C. personal injury case goes to trial, a number of procedural issues can arise that may delay or confuse the proceedings. In one case before a state appellate court, the court had to consider whether a party’s strike of an African-American juror was valid.
A plaintiff brought an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim against an insurance company, and the case went to trial. Before the trial began, the insurance company used a peremptory challenge to strike an African-American female as a juror. The plaintiff’s lawyer objected to the challenge on racial grounds, noting that the potential juror was a member of a distinct racial group, and asked for the reason for striking the juror.
The insurance company’s lawyer stated that he was striking her because she was inattentive and did not seem to be engaged in the jury selection process, so he was concerned she would not pay attention and focus on the evidence at trial. The court then concluded that the basis for the strike was “legally insufficient.” The trial court noted that the juror was “not particularly engaged” and did not find the lawyer’s explanation for the strike to be “disingenuous,” but nevertheless found that the potential juror’s apparent “introverted personality” was not a sufficient race-neutral reason for a peremptory challenge. The trial went forward, and the jury found in favor of the plaintiff.