Dowd-Feder v. Truesdell

Decision Date18 March 1936
Docket Number24902
Citation130 Ohio St. 530,200 N.E. 763
PartiesThe Dowd-Feder, Inc., v. Truesdell.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Jury - Voir dire examination - Purpose and scope - Juror's connection with or interest in casualty insurance company - Character and scope of questions controlled by court.

1. The purpose of the examination of a prospective juror upon his voir dire is to determine whether he has both the statutory qualifications of a juror and is free from bias or prejudice for or against either litigant.

2. In the examination of a juror upon his voir dire, in cases involving property damage, personal injury or both, he may be asked the general question whether he has or has had any connection with or interest in a casualty insurance company. If the answer be in the affirmative, the juror may then be asked the name of such company and the nature of his connection with or interest therein. (Paragraph three of the syllabus of Pavilonis v. Valentine, 120 Ohio St. 154, and paragraph three of the syllabus of Vega, Admr., v. Evans, 128 Ohio St. 535, modified.)

3. All questions in the voir dire examination must be propounded in good faith. The character and scope of such questions cannot become standardized, but must be controlled by the court in the exercise of its sound discretion, the court having for its purpose the securing to every litigant an unbiased jury.

On August 18, 1931, plaintiff's automobile was parked along the curb, facing west on the north side of Fourth avenue in Columbus. While plaintiff was standing on the left running board of his parked automobile, cleaning the front of the windshield, an automobile, driven by a man named Clay, going west on Fourth avenue, ran into the side of plaintiff's automobile, by reason of which plaintiff was injured. Suit was filed against plaintiff in error, the petition alleging among other things, that the defendant was engaged in the sale and distribution of automobiles, that the automobile operated by Clay was its property, and that Clay was one of its employees. The answer of defendant after admitting its corporate capacity and that the streets named were public thoroughfares in the city of Columbus denied generally the allegations contained in plaintiff's petition.

At the trial of the cause the following questions were permitted to be asked of prospective jurors on their voir dire over the objection of counsel for plaintiff in

"Q. I will ask you this question, members of the jury, are any of you members of the jury employed by any casualty insurance company that writes automobile liability insurance?

"Q. Are any of you owners of stock in any liability insurance company?"

Plaintiff in error moved for the withdrawal of a juror on account of those questions, which motion was denied, whereupon exceptions were duly taken.

The jury returned a verdict for plaintiff in the sum of $1500 upon which judgment was rendered. Error was prospected to the Court of Appeals, where the judgment was affirmed. The matter is now before this court on the allowance of a motion to certify.

Mr. John F. Ward, for plaintiff in error.

Messrs. Huggins & Liggett, for defendant in error.


Two questions are presented for our determination. First, whether it is error for a trial court to allow interrogation of prospective jurors on their voir dire concerning their possible connections with, interest in, or relationship to a casualty insurance company; and second, whether the facts as reflected by the record establish agency.

The first is the more important question presented for our consideration. We are faced with the problem of granting plaintiff in a personal injury case reasonable safeguards against obtaining a jury composed of men and women having insurance connections or interests and of relieving defendant from possible prejudice which interrogation concerning the jury's interests might tend to provoke. The only way to prevent those who have insurance interests or connections from sitting on juries in the trial of negligence cases is by the test applied in voir dire interrogation. On the other hand, the possibility of any prejudice which might arise by reason of such interrogation must be done away with by proper precautions taken to that end.

The difficulty the problem presents in intensified by the fact that the rights of the casualty insurance company, not a party to the action, are sought to be protected, and it is contended that non-disclosure affords such protection. Yet that very fact is one of the main reasons for ascertaining a juror's qualifications in that respect.

In view of the fact that neither litigant nor counsel can know personally every prospective juror, inquiry into a juror's possible connection with, or interest in casualty insurance companies is obviously necessary in order that his cause shall not be tried by a jury whose views in such cases are colored by their investments, income or other prejudicial interests. While a juror's interest in or connections with a casualty insurance company do not ipso facto disqualify him as a juror, yet it must be admitted that there is the possibility of a disposition on the part of some such persons to be defense-minded.

The identical question was considered by this court in the case of Pavilonis v. Valentine, 120 Ohio St. 154, 165 N. E., 730, and in the case of Vega, Admr., v. Evans, 128 Ohio St. 535, 191 N. E., 757, 95 A.L.R. 381. In the former case "examination of a prospective juror on his voir dire as to his connection with, interest in, or relationship to a casualty insurance company" was permitted, while in the latter case that right was denied, "unless such insurance company is a party to the litigation or unless it has theretofore been disclosed to the court by such company or by the defense that such insurance company is actively and directly interested in the litigation." Under the doctrine laid down in the Vega case, a stockholder, officer or employee of a casualty insurance company can find his place on a jury called in to try a negligence case and plaintiff denied the right of ascertaining that fact.

We are reconsidering the question in this case, hoping to find some middle ground between the principles there laid down so as to afford all parties to a law suit a fair and impartial trial.

The right to examine prospective jurors on their voir dire is granted to litigants in order to enable them to select a jury composed of men and women qualified and competent to judge and determine, without bias, prejudice or partiality, facts in issue. For the proper exercise of this right, the Legislature has deemed it wise to give to litigants the right of peremptory challenge and challenge for cause. This former right is to be exercised at their discretion and free from any limitation or restriction. Any rule of law which denies a litigant reasonable latitude in the examination of prospective jurors as to their...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2 cases
  • Krupp v. Poor
    • United States
    • Ohio Supreme Court
    • December 16, 1970
    ...court having for its purpose the securing to every litigant an unbiased jury. (Paragraph three of the syllabus of Dowd-Feder v. Truesdell, 130 Ohio St. 530, 200 N.E. 762, approved and 2. Judicial discretion is the option which a judge may exercise between the doing and not doing of a thing ......
  • Stehura v. Short
    • United States
    • Ohio Court of Appeals
    • February 14, 1974 company; (2) the extent of their connection, as long as these questions are propounded in good faith. Dowd-Feder v. Truesdell (1936), 130 Ohio St. 530, 200 N.E. 762. Even this limited right of plaintiff's counsel to inquire on voir dire as to prospective juror's connection with an......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT