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R.I. Federal District Court Rules Inadvertent Failure To Poll Civil Jury Not Grounds For New Trial

In what appears to be a decision of first impression, the federal district court in Rhode Island has held that its inadvertent failure to poll individually a civil jury is not grounds for a new trial. Rule 48 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure was amended in 2009 to state: "[a]fter a verdict is returned but before the jury is discharged, the court must on a party's request, or may on its own, poll the jury individually. If the poll reveals a lack of unanimity or lack of assent by the number of jurors that the parties stipulated to, the court may direct the jury to deliberate further or may order a new trial."

The court held that although the plaintiff had requested a poll of the jury after it returned a defense verdict, the court's inadvertent failure to do so was harmless error. The court collectively polled the jury and it found there was "nothing in the jurors' demeanor or behavior to indicate that any one of them did not render willingly and knowingly the groups' unanimous verdict." The court rejected plaintiff's argument, based on criminal decisions, that the failure to poll the jurors individually was per se reversible error.

Ira Green, Inc. v. Military Sales & Service, Co., C.A. 10-207-M, memorandum and order, (D.R.I. Jan. 15, 2014)

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