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Sanchez v. Geico Indemnity Co.

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

July 22, 2019

Movita Sanchez, Appellant,
v.
Geico Indemnity Company, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Walton County. Jeffrey E. Lewis, Judge.

          Charles F. Beall, Jr., of Moore, Hill & Westmoreland, P.A., Pensacola, and John W. Wesley of Wesley, McGrail & Wesley, Fort Walton Beach, for Appellant.

          Angela C. Flowers of Kubicki Draper, Ocala, for Appellee.

          Jay, J.

         We have for review the trial court's order granting GEICO Indemnity Company's motion for new trial. Relying on Matarranz v. State, 133 So.3d 473 (Fla. 2013), and Singer v. State, 109 So.2d 7 (Fla. 1959), the trial court concluded it applied the incorrect standard in denying GEICO's motion to remove a juror for cause. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         I.

         Movita Sanchez sued GEICO for damages caused by a motor vehicle accident that occurred on November 19, 2012. The issues of negligence and causation were settled between the parties, but a jury trial was held to determine the amount of damages.

         At the stage of jury selection, it was revealed that the venire contained two prospective jurors-numbers 13 and 17-each of whom bore the surname of "Johnson." During voir dire, counsel for plaintiff Sanchez, Mr. Wesley, asked the members of the venire if any of them had brought a lawsuit against their own insurance company. The following exchange took place between Mr. Wesley and juror 13:

MR. WESLEY: Anyone else ever had to bring a lawsuit against their own insurance company?
Mr. Johnson?
[JUROR 13]: Yes.
MR. WESLEY: Tell me about that, sir.
[JUROR 13]: This was in the 80s. I don't remember much of it. I was rear ended. I filed a claim.
MR. WESLEY: Okay. Did you bring a claim against your insurance company, or did you bring [a] claim against the person who rear ended you, or do you remember?
[JUROR 13]: My insurance company.
MR. WESLEY: Okay. Under an uninsured motorist coverage?
[JUROR 13]: The driver was insured.
MR. WESLEY: Regardless of who the claim may have been against, were you satisfied with that process?
[JUROR 13]: Um . . .
MR. WESLEY: Pregnant pause. It sounds like you may not have been - exactly happy with the process or totally satisfied with the result. Is that fair?
[JUROR 13]: Well I'm still suffering from the injuries so -
MR. WESLEY: You still have injuries or symptoms that were, are related to that accident?
[JUROR 13]: Right.
MR. WESLEY: Do you still receive treatment?
[JUROR 13]: No.
MR. WESLEY: Just something you deal with?
[JUROR 13]: Yes.
MR. WESLEY: Along the same lines of the question I asked - do you believe like you were made whole or that you received everything that you were owed as a result of that accident?
[JUROR 13]: No.
MR. WESLEY: No? Thank you, Mr. Johnson. Later on, juror 13 responded to Mr. Wesley's additional questions as follows:
MR. WESLEY: Anybody else in the panel - anybody else have concerns about starting everybody off even? Does anybody feel like they are not able to do [sic]? That they are already leaning one way or the other - Mr. Johnson?
[JUROR 13]: I am leaning towards the plaintiff.
MR. WESLEY: Okay. What gives you that lean?
[JUROR 13]: I have a fiancée that is involved in a personal injury case at this time with Geico.
MR. WESLEY: Okay. Is that a case where Geico is the uninsured motorist carrier, meaning her insurance company or is ...

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