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Second trial; same verdict

Seventeen months after the original trial, a second jury reached the same verdict as the first in a lawsuit brought by a man paralyzed when his pickup truck hit a retaining wall.

In the verdict returned last Friday (Feb. 7), the 12-person jury found William Sandoval, 64, New Richmond, was negligent and his own negligence caused the accident on Aug. 3, 2010.

The jury found that Ayres Associates, the firm that did the design work when St. Croix County rebuilt County Road I, was not negligent.

At the end of a 6-day trial in September 2012, the first jury found Sandoval was negligent and the engineering firm was not and determined that $4 million would fairly compensate him for pain, suffering and disability. The second jury was not asked to set a value on any losses.

The first verdict was thrown out and a new trial ordered after Sandoval’s attorneys, Chuck Bye and Steve Goff, alleged juror misconduct, claiming one juror had fallen asleep during testimony and had posted brief comments about the trial on his Facebook page. Sandoval’s lawyers also claimed two jurors failed to reveal their lack of impartiality and their negative attitudes toward injured parties.

In ordering a second trial, Judge Eric Lundell said that while each incident of alleged juror misconduct might not be enough to justify a new trial, “the cumulative effect of the collective misconduct of a few jurors in this case” provided enough evidence that Sandoval didn’t get a fair trial.

Claiming Lundell’s comments to the jury after the first trial showed he wasn’t impartial, Ayres Associates and its insurance company asked for a different judge for the second trial.

Although Lundell disputed much of what a couple of jurors reported, he transferred the case to Judge Howard Cameron, who presided over the second trial.

In that trial, court records show jurors began deliberations about 11 a.m. and returned with a verdict before 1:30 p.m.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

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