Doe v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 26012

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtDAVIS, Justice
Citation558 S.E.2d 663,210 W.Va. 664
PartiesJane DOE, Plaintiff Below, Appellant, v. WAL-MART STORES, INC., A Corporation; B.C. Associates Limited Partnership, a Limited Partnership; and Robert Belcher, Defendants Below, Appellees. Jane Doe, Plaintiff Below, Appellant, v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., A Corporation, Defendant Below, Appellee.
Docket Number No. 26012, No. 29335.
Decision Date07 December 2001

558 S.E.2d 663
210 W.Va.
664

Jane DOE, Plaintiff Below, Appellant,
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC., A Corporation; B.C. Associates Limited Partnership, a Limited Partnership; and Robert Belcher, Defendants Below, Appellees.
Jane Doe, Plaintiff Below, Appellant,
v.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., A Corporation, Defendant Below, Appellee

Nos. 26012, 29335.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Submitted September 19, 2001.

Decided December 7, 2001.

Concurring opinion of Justice Starcher December 13, 2001.


210 W.Va. 667
Richard E. Rowe, Suzanne Jett Trowbridge, Goodwin & Goodwin, Charleston, for appellant

James D. McQueen, Lynnette S. Simon, McQueen, Harmon & Murphy, Charleston, for appellee, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

210 W.Va. 664
210 W.Va. 665

210 W.Va. 666
DAVIS, Justice

Jane Doe, appellant/plaintiff below (hereinafter referred to as "Ms. Doe"), appeals an adverse jury verdict from the Circuit Court of Raleigh County.1 Ms. Doe has assigned error to rulings by the trial court that involve: (1) the failure to disqualify a potential juror for cause; (2) erroneous jury instructions; (3) the empty chair closing argument;

210 W.Va. 668
(4) the limitation of discovery; (5) the exclusion of expert testimony; (6) the exclusion of an article by David Gorman; and (7) posttrial sanctions. After considering the briefs, reviewing the record and listening to the arguments of the parties, we reverse the jury verdict in this case and grant a new trial.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On February 23, 1994, Ms. Doe was abducted from the Beckley Crossings Shopping Center in Raleigh County, West Virginia by Billy Jo Hampton (hereinafter referred to as "Mr. Hampton"). At the time of the abduction, Mr. Hampton was being pursued by Virginia law enforcement officials for attempted murder. Mr. Hampton forced Ms. Doe into her car. He then drove the car to a remote area of Summers County where he sexually assaulted Ms. Doe. After the sexual assault, Mr. Hampton fled. Mr. Hampton left Ms. Doe alive at the crime scene.2

Thereafter, on February 1, 1995, Ms. Doe filed the instant action against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., appellee/defendant below (hereinafter referred to as "Wal-Mart").3 The complaint charged Wal-Mart with breaching the duty to provide adequate security at the parking facility where Ms. Doe was abducted. On September 1, 1995, the circuit court entered an order dismissing the complaint for failure to state a cause of action upon which relief could be granted. Ms. Doe filed an appeal to this Court challenging the dismissal. We reversed the dismissal and remanded the case for trial in Doe v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 198 W.Va. 100, 479 S.E.2d 610 (1996).

On remand, the case proceeded to trial. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Wal-Mart. Ms. Doe timely appealed the verdict. While the appeal was pending before this Court, Ms. Doe moved to remand the case for posttrial discovery. In her remand request, Ms. Doe alleged pretrial discovery abuses by Wal-Mart. By order entered June 3, 1999, this Court granted the motion for remand to conduct posttrial discovery.

As a result of this Court's remand, the trial court granted Ms. Doe ninety days to conduct posttrial discovery. At the end of the discovery period, the parties presented to the trial court three motions. Ms. Doe moved the court for an extension of time to conduct further discovery which motion the trial court denied. Then, Wal-Mart presented two motions: a motion for partial summary judgment as to the admissibility of a previously undisclosed study and a motion for a protective order preventing discovery of information pertaining to sanctions against Wal-Mart in other jurisdictions. The trial court granted both of Wal-Mart's motions.

As a result of these rulings, Ms. Doe also appealed the trial court's posttrial discovery rulings. Therefore, for appeal purposes, this Court consolidated the original appeal of the adverse jury verdict with the appeal concerning the trial court's three posttrial discovery rulings.

II.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

When reviewing a trial court's rulings, we typically employ a three-part standard of review.

In reviewing challenges to the findings and conclusions of the circuit court, we apply a two-prong deferential standard of review. We review the final order and the ultimate disposition under an abuse of discretion standard, and we review the circuit court's underlying factual findings under a clearly erroneous standard. Questions of law are subject to a de novo review.

Syl. pt. 2, Walker v. West Virginia Ethics Comm'n, 201 W.Va. 108, 492 S.E.2d 167

210 W.Va. 669
(1997). Given the diversity of Ms. Doe's assignments of error, however, additional standards of review pertaining to specific issues are also applicable to this proceeding. Therefore, where such additional standards are pertinent, we will incorporate such methods of review into our discussion of the corresponding assigned errors.

III.

DISCUSSION

A. Disqualification of Potential Juror for Cause

Ms. Doe first asserts that the trial court committed error in failing to strike a potential juror for cause. She claims that during voir dire of the jury panel, she learned that one juror, Tammy Rae Hylton, and her husband owned stock in Wal-Mart. During voir dire, Ms. Doe further discovered that Ms. Hylton's husband was employed as a produce manager by Wal-Mart in one of its Virginia stores. Ms. Doe moved the trial court to strike Ms. Hylton for cause. However, the trial court denied the motion after Ms. Hylton stated during individual voir dire that she could fairly and impartially decide the issues in the case based upon the evidence. Therefore, Ms. Doe used one of her two peremptory strikes to remove Ms. Hylton from the jury.

In reviewing such matters, we have held that "[t]he decision to grant a motion to strike a juror for cause is within the sound discretion of the trial court." Wheeler v. Murphy, 192 W.Va. 325, 331, 452 S.E.2d 416, 422 (1994). The appropriate standard of review was fully outlined in State v. Miller, 197 W.Va. 588, 600-01, 476 S.E.2d 535, 547-48 (1996), as follows:

In reviewing the qualifications of a jury to serve in a criminal [or civil] case, we follow a three-step process. Our review is plenary as to legal questions such as the statutory qualifications for jurors; clearly erroneous as to whether the facts support the grounds relied upon for disqualification; and an abuse of discretion as to the reasonableness of the procedure employed and the ruling on disqualification by the trial court.

A trial court's determination as to whether to strike a juror for cause will be "reverse[d] only where actual prejudice is demonstrated." Miller, 197 W.Va. at 605, 476 S.E.2d at 552 (citation omitted).

In Syllabus point 7 of State v. Neider, 170 W.Va. 662, 295 S.E.2d 902 (1982), this Court indicated that "[t]he true test as to whether a juror is qualified to serve on the panel is whether without bias or prejudice he can render a verdict solely on the evidence under the instructions of the court." We have also cautioned "that the mere statement of a prospective juror that he or she is not biased with respect to a particular cause may not be sufficient for the trial court to conclude that no such bias exists." West Virginia Dep't. of Highways v. Fisher, 170 W.Va. 7, 11, 289 S.E.2d 213, 218 (1982). We believe that the fact that the juror owned stock in Wal-Mart and that her husband was employed by Wal-Mart constituted grounds for per se disqualification of the juror.

Under the common law there were several grounds for which a person was per se disqualified from serving on a jury. Those grounds were:

(1) Kinship to either party within the ninth degree; (2) was arbitrator on either side; (3) that he has an interest in the cause; (4) that there is an action pending between him and the party; (5) that he has taken money for his verdict; (6) that he was formerly a juror in the same case; (7) that he is the party's master, servant, counsellor, steward, or attorney, or of the same society or corporation with him; and causes of the same class or founded upon the same reason should be included.

State v. Riley, 151 W.Va. 364, 383, 151 S.E.2d 308, 320 (1966) (internal quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added)4. Grounds for disqualification from serving on a jury are also contained in W.Va.Code § 56-6-12 (1923) (Repl. Vol. 1997) as follow:

210 W.Va. 670
Either party in any action or suit may, and the court shall on motion of such party, examine on oath any person who is called as a juror therein, to know whether he is a qualified juror, or is related to either party, or has any interest in the cause, or is sensible of any bias or prejudice therein; and the party objecting to the juror may introduce any other competent evidence in support of the objection; and if it shall appear to the court that such person is not a qualified juror or does not stand indifferent in the cause, another shall be called and placed in his stead for the trial of that cause. And in every case, unless it be otherwise specially provided by law, the plaintiff and defendant may each challenge four jurors peremptorily.

(Emphasis added).

As illustrated above, under the common law and by statute, a person is disqualified from sitting on a jury in a case in which he or she has an interest in the outcome. Therefore, we hold that pursuant to West Virginia statutory and common law, a person is disqualified from sitting on a jury in a case in which he/she has an interest in the outcome of the litigation. Therefore, if, during jury selection, it becomes apparent that a potential juror has such an interest, the trial court must strike the juror for cause. Failure to so strike an interested potential juror constitutes reversible error. See Chestnut v. Ford Motor Co., 445 F.2d 967, 971 (4th Cir.1971) ("That a stockholder in a company which is party to an action is incompetent to sit as a juror is so well settled as to be...

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25 practice notes
  • State v. Lambert, No. 14-0438
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • September 17, 2015
    ...for the limited purpose of informing the jury of the basis for the expert's opinion." Syllabus point 3, Doe v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 210 W. Va. 664, 558 S.E.2d 663 (2001). 10. "Several basic rules exist as to cross-examination of a witness. The first is that the scope of cross-examination ......
  • State v. Kennedy, No. 11–0223.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 21, 2012
    ...solely for the limited purpose of informing the jury of the basis for the expert's opinion.” Syl. Pt. 3, Doe v. Wal–Mart Stores, Inc., 210 W.Va. 664, 558 S.E.2d 663 (2001). 9. “The criteria to be used in deciding the retroactivity of new constitutional rules of criminal procedure are: (a) t......
  • Turner v. Roman Catholic Diocese, No. 08-003.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • October 9, 2009
    ...be disqualified from sitting as a juror in the case because of an economic interest in the outcome. See Doe v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 210 W.Va. 664, 558 S.E.2d 663, 670 (2001) (holding that it was reversible error not to strike juror for cause who owned defendant stock and whose husband was......
  • Dept. of Transp. v. Parkersburg Inn, No. 33882.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 5, 2008
    ...instructions so long as the instructions given as a whole are accurate and fair to both parties. See also Doe v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 210 W.Va. 664, 671, 558 S.E.2d 663, 670 The remaining issues raised by the Inn involve the admissibility of certain evidence. This Court has made clear tha......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
25 cases
  • State v. Lambert, No. 14-0438
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • September 17, 2015
    ...for the limited purpose of informing the jury of the basis for the expert's opinion." Syllabus point 3, Doe v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 210 W. Va. 664, 558 S.E.2d 663 (2001). 10. "Several basic rules exist as to cross-examination of a witness. The first is that the scope of cross-examination ......
  • State v. Kennedy, No. 11–0223.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 21, 2012
    ...solely for the limited purpose of informing the jury of the basis for the expert's opinion.” Syl. Pt. 3, Doe v. Wal–Mart Stores, Inc., 210 W.Va. 664, 558 S.E.2d 663 (2001). 9. “The criteria to be used in deciding the retroactivity of new constitutional rules of criminal procedure are: (a) t......
  • Turner v. Roman Catholic Diocese, No. 08-003.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • October 9, 2009
    ...be disqualified from sitting as a juror in the case because of an economic interest in the outcome. See Doe v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 210 W.Va. 664, 558 S.E.2d 663, 670 (2001) (holding that it was reversible error not to strike juror for cause who owned defendant stock and whose husband was......
  • Dept. of Transp. v. Parkersburg Inn, No. 33882.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 5, 2008
    ...instructions so long as the instructions given as a whole are accurate and fair to both parties. See also Doe v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 210 W.Va. 664, 671, 558 S.E.2d 663, 670 The remaining issues raised by the Inn involve the admissibility of certain evidence. This Court has made clear tha......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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