I served as juror on a civil case last month. We've reached our verdict. After a month, I got a call from the losing party asking me to sign a declaration stating the facts about how we've reached our verdict and that I was involved and assisted with the calculations of the amount of compensation that the winning party was seeking. I believe they're going to file a motion. My question is, what does it mean with me signing the declaration? Is there a possibility of me getting involved again with the case? Will I be called to come in and explain? Can I let them know that I'm not comfortable signing it and they should reach out to other jury member? I was surprised that they reached out to me but I guess they got my number from the court.
I can't say what it means for you personally, but there are some general rules around treating jurors as witnesses that you could learn about. They vary from one jurisdiction to the next, but most of them run largely parallel.
One important consideration is Model Rule 3.5, which prohibits a lawyer from contacting a juror if:
(1) the communication is prohibited by law or court order;
(2) the juror has made known to the lawyer a desire not to communicate; or
(3) the communication involves misrepresentation, coercion, duress or harassment.
Assuming there is contact, Evidence Rule 606(b) says that testimony from a juror is generally not admissible when it's about the jury's deliberations. There are some exceptions:
A juror may testify about whether:
(A) extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury's attention;
(B) an outside influence was improperly brought to bear on any juror; or
(C) a mistake was made in entering the verdict on the verdict form.
Generally speaking, courts seem to be very reluctant to entertain a losing party's attempt to revive litigation based on what happened in the jury room, so they seem to take a very narrow view of what it takes to meet one of those exceptions:
- "Extraneous prejudicial information" is more likely to refer to a juror knowing that the defendant in a car crash case was a child molester, rather than a juror previously owning the same kind of car and knowing that it has a weird blind spot that could cause the accident.
- "An outside influence" is more likely to refer to someone trying to bribe or threaten a juror, rather than a juror's husband pressuring him to wrap up deliberations and get home.
- "A mistake in entering the verdict on the verdict form," for instance, is more likely to involve circling "yes" instead of "no," rather than a mathematical error in calculating the damages awarded to a plaintiff.
So unless something went seriously wrong, it seems unlikely that a juror would be called back into court to discuss anything that happened behind closed doors.
These rules, though, govern only whether the attorney may reach out and whether the juror's testimony may be admitted into court; they don't really say anything about whether a juror should be talking to the lawyer in the first place. On that question, the decision is the juror's. Generally speaking, the juror is not required to keep deliberations secret, but the juror is not required to answer questions about deliberations, either. A juror who believes that some injustice occurred in the deliberations may very well want to answer questions from the lawyer, or even reach out to the lawyer or the court herself.
But a juror who is confident that everything went right, or who thinks the losing party is just trying to escape liability, or who just wants to be left alone, may refuse to answer questions, sign statements, or otherwise reveal anything that happened. If that's the case, and the juror clearly tells the lawyer that he or she does not want to communicate about the case, the lawyer should leave the juror alone, or run the risk of serious trouble with the court in the event the juror lets the judge know about it.