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March 15, 2014
Amendments to Jury Instructions in Civil Cases

The Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases submits these amendments to the following Florida Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases: Instructions 201.2 and 202.4. In response to amendments to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.431, this proposal addresses jurors’ communications with the trial court and courtroom personnel. On February 15, the committee published a separate proposal to amend Instruction 201.2 to address jurors’ use of electronic devices. The proposal on electronic devices was in response to recent amendments to Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.451. The committee anticipates submitting both proposals to amend Instruction 201.2to to the Florida Supreme Court after reviewing all comments. Interested parties have until April 14, to submit comments electronically or by mail to the Civil Committee at sjicivil@flcourts.org, or to the chair of the Civil Committee, Joseph Lang, Jr., Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, P.A., Corporate Center Three at International Plaza, 4221 West Boy Scout Boulevard, Tampa 33607, jlang@cfjblaw.com, and a copy to the Florida Bar liaison for the committee, Heather Telfer, The Florida Bar, 651 E. Jefferson Street, Tallahassee 32399-6523, htelfer@flabar.org.


201.2 INTRODUCTION OF PARTICIPANTS AND THEIR ROLES

Who are the people here and what do they do?

Judge/Court: I am the Judge. You may hear people occasionally refer to me as “The Court.” That is the formal name for my role. My job is to maintain order and decide how to apply the rules of the law to the trial. I will also explain various rules to you that you will need to know in order to do your job as the jury. It is my job to remain neutral on the issues of this lawsuit.

Parties: A party who files a lawsuit is called the Plaintiff. A party that is sued is called the Defendant.

Attorneys: The attorneys have the job of representing their clients. That means they speak for their client here at the trial. They have taken oaths as attorneys to do their best and to follow the rules for their profession.

Plaintiff’s Counsel: The attorney on this side of the courtroom, (introduce by name), represents (client name) and is the person who filed the lawsuit here at the courthouse. [His] [Her] job is to present [his] [her] client’s side of things to you. [He] [She] and [his] [her] client will be referred to most of the time as “the plaintiff.” (Attorney name), will you please introduce who is sitting at the table with you?

[Plaintiff without Counsel: (Introduce claimant by name), on this side of the courtroom, is the person who filed the lawsuit at the courthouse. (Claimant) is not represented by an attorney and will present [his] [her] side of things to you [himself] [herself].

Defendant’s Counsel: The attorney on this side of the courtroom, (introduce by name), represents (client name), the one who has been sued. [His] [Her] job is to present [his] [her] client’s side of things to you. [He] [She] and [his] [her] client will usually be referred to here as “the defendant.” (Attorney name), will you please introduce who is sitting at the table with you?

[Defendant’s Counsel: The attorney on this side of the courtroom, (introduce by name), represents (client name), the one who has been sued. [His] [Her] job is to present [his] [her] client’s side of things to you. [He] [She] and [his] [her] client will usually be referred to here as “the defendant.” [His] [Her] client (defendant uninsured or underinsured motorist carrier) is (claimant’s name) motor vehicle insurance company and provided [him] [her] [uninsured] [underinsured] motorist coverage, which may be available to pay some or all of the damages that may be awarded.]*

*Use the bracketed paragraph above when the case involves an uninsured or underinsured motorist carrier.

[Defendant without Counsel: (Introduce defendant by name), on this side of the courtroom, is the one who has been sued. (Defendant) is not represented by an attorney and will present [his] [her] side of things to you [himself] [herself].

Court Clerk: This person sitting in front of me, (name), is the court clerk. [He] [She] is here to assist me with some of the mechanics of the trial process, including the numbering and collection of the exhibits that are introduced in the course of the trial.

Court Reporter: The person sitting at the stenographic machine, (name), is the court reporter. [His] [Her] job is to keep an accurate legal record of everything we say and do during this trial.

Bailiff: The person over there, (name), is the bailiff. [His] [Her] job is to maintain order and security in the courtroom. The bailiff is also my - 15 -
representative to the jury. Anything you need or any problems that come up for you during the course of the trial should be brought to [him] [her]. However, the bailiff cannot answer any of your questions about the case. Only I can do that.

Jury: Last, but not least, is the jury, which we will begin to select in a few moments from among all of you. The jury’s job will be to decide what the facts are and what the facts mean. Jurors should be as neutral as possible at this point and have no fixed opinion about the lawsuit.

In order to have a fair and lawful trial, there are rules that all jurors must follow. A basic rule is that jurors must decide the case only on the evidence presented in the courtroom. You must not communicate with anyone, including friends and family members, about this case, the people and places involved, or your jury service. You must not disclose your thoughts about this case or ask for advice on how to decide this case.

I want to stress that this rule means you must not use electronic devices or computers to communicate about this case, including tweeting, texting, blogging, e-mailing, posting information on a website or chat room, or any other means at all. Do not send or accept any messages to or from anyone about this case or your jury service.

You must not do any research or look up words, names, [maps], or anything else that may have anything to do with this case. This includes reading newspapers, watching television or using a computer, cell phone, the Internet, any electronic device, or any other means at all, to get information related to this case or the people and places involved in this case. This applies whether you are in the courthouse, at home, or anywhere else.

All of us are depending on you to follow these rules, so that there will be a fair and lawful resolution to this case. Unlike questions that you may be allowed to ask in court, which will be answered in court in the presence of the judge and the parties, if you investigate, research or make inquiries on your own outside of the courtroom, the trial judge has no way to assure they are proper and relevant to the case. The parties likewise have no opportunity to dispute the accuracy of what you find or to provide rebuttal evidence to it. That is contrary to our judicial system, which assures every party the right to ask questions about and rebut the evidence being considered against it and to present argument with respect to that evidence. Non-court inquiries and investigations unfairly and improperly prevent the parties from having that opportunity our judicial system promises.

All of your communications with courtroom personnel or me will be part of the record of these proceedings. That means, those communications shall either be made in open court with the court reporter present or, if they are in writing, the writing will be filed with the court clerk. I have instructed the courtroom personnel that any communications you have with them outside of my presence must be reported to me, and I will tell the parties [and their attorneys] about any communication from you that I believe may be of interest to the parties [and their attorneys].

However, you may communicate directly with courtroom personnel about matters concerning your comfort and safety, such as [juror parking] [location of break areas] [how and when to assemble for duty] [dress] [what personal items can be brought into the courthouse or jury room] [list any other types of routine ex parte communications permitted].

If you become aware of any violation of these instructions or any other instruction I give in this case, you must tell me by giving a note to the bailiff.

NOTES ON USE FOR 201.2

1. The portion of this instruction dealing with communication with others and outside research may need to be modified to include other specified means of communication or research as technology develops.

2. Fla.R.Civ.P. 1.431(i)(2) requires the court, by pretrial order or statement on the record with opportunity for objection, to set forth the scope of routine, ex parte communications. Fla.R.Civ.P. 1.431(i)(3) mandates an instruction during voir dire regarding the limitations on jurors’ communications with the court and courtroom personnel. The court should make sure that courtroom personnel are also aware of the limitations on their communications with jurors.

3. The introduction of the uninsured/underinsured motorist carrier is required because the plaintiffs are entitled to have the jury know that the joined carrier is the plaintiffs’ uninsured/underinsured carrier. Lamz v. Geico General Insurance Co., 803 So.2d 593 (Fla. 2001); Medina v. Peralta, 724 So.2d 1188 (Fla. 1999).

202.4 JUROR QUESTIONS

Questions for the court or courtroom personnel:

During the trial, you may have a question about these proceedings. If so, please write it down and hand it to the bailiff, who will then hand it to me. I will review your question with the parties [and their attorneys] before responding.

Questions for witnesses:

During the trial, yYou also may have a question you think should be asked of a witness. If so, there is a procedure by whichway for you to you may request that I ask the witness a question. After all the attorneys have completed their questioning of the witness, you should raise your hand if you have a question. I will then give you sufficient time to write the question on a piece of paper, fold it, and give it to the bailiff, who will pass it to me. You must Do not put your name on the question, show your question it to anyone or discuss it with anyone.

I will then review the question with the attorneys. Under our law, only certain evidence may be considered by a jury in determining a verdict. You are bound by the same rules of evidence that control the attorneys’ questions. If I decide that the question may not be asked under our rules of evidence, I will tell you. Otherwise, I will direct the question to the witness. The attorneys may then ask follow-up questions if they wish. If there are additional questions from jurors, we will follow the same procedure again.

By providing this procedure, I do not mean to suggest that you must or should submit written questions for witnesses. In most cases, the lawyers will have asked the necessary questions.
NOTES ON USE FOR 202.4
1. Fla.R.Civ.P. 1.431(i)(3) requires an instruction that jurors’ questions must be submitted in writing to the court, which will review them with the parties and counsel before responding. Rule 1.431 does not prevent jurors from asking the bailiff about routine matters affecting comfort and safety. The committee notes to rule 1.431 recognize that this instruction may need to be modified to reflect that individual trial judges may have reasonable differences regarding the type of communications considered routine.

2. Fla.R.Civ.P. 1.452 mandates that jurors be permitted to submit written questions directed to witnesses or the court.

[Revised: 08-11-2014]