Ex parte Toyota Motor Corp.

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtHOUSTON; HOOPER; MADDOX; MADDOX; Commenting on these rules
Citation684 So.2d 132
PartiesEx parte TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION and Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. (In re Carol C. PRICE, as administratrix of the Estate of Mell W. Price II, deceased v. TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION and Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.). 1951034.
Decision Date06 September 1996

Page 132

684 So.2d 132
Ex parte TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION and Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.
(In re Carol C. PRICE, as administratrix of the Estate of Mell W. Price II, deceased
v.
TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION and Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.).
1951034.
Supreme Court of Alabama.
Sept. 6, 1996.

Page 133

D. Alan Thomas, T. Kelly May and Frank E. Lankford, Jr. of Huie, Fernambucq & Stewart, Birmingham, for Petitioners.

Nat Bryan and Ralph Bohanan, Jr. of Pittman, Hooks, Marsh, Dutton & Hollis, P.C., Birmingham, for Respondent.

HOUSTON, Justice.

The Court of Civil Appeals reversed a judgment based upon a jury verdict for Toyota Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (hereinafter together referred to as "Toyota"), the defendants in a wrongful death case. This was done because a juror, W. P., had pleaded guilty to third degree burglary 12 1/2 years before he served on the petit jury in this case. Toyota had peremptorily struck W.P.; however, W.P. was reinstated as a member of the petit jury because the plaintiff, Carol C. Price, as administratrix of the estate of Mell W. Price II, deceased, contended that Toyota had violated Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), in striking W.P. The trial court upheld Price's challenge in the face of what Toyota contended were race-neutral reasons (that W.P. was unemployed, had owned a "lemon" automobile, was young and single, and, therefore, would more likely be somewhat negative toward Toyota and tend to render a higher verdict). The jury found for Toyota. Price sought a new trial because W. P., who Price had insisted be reinstated as a juror, had served on the jury. The trial court denied the new trial motion. Price appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals reversed and remanded. Price v. Toyota Motor Corp., 684 So.2d 131 (Ala.1996). We granted Toyota's petition for certiorari review. Toyota raised two issues:

(1) Whether Price waived the right to challenge W. P.'s statutory disqualification through a failure to exercise due diligence to keep disqualified persons, such as W. P., off the jury panel; and

Page 134

(2) Whether Price waived the error by successfully challenging Toyota's peremptory strike of W.P. under Batson.

FACTS

The facts underlying this case are undisputed. Carol Price filed a wrongful death action in the Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court in 1993, based on the death of Mell W. Price II. The case came up for trial during the week of May 8, 1995. As was the custom in Tuscaloosa County, the initial qualification of the jury pool was conducted all at once by a "qualifying judge," who would not preside over the trial, prior to the beginning of the several trials scheduled for that week. 1 Price's attorneys chose not to attend the initial qualifying session. During the initial session, the qualifying judge twice asked the members of the jury pool, "Is there anyone who has been convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude?" During the qualifying session, the jury was never asked if any juror had "lost the right to vote." Ala.Code 1975, § 12-16-60(a)(4). 2

After assembling the venire for Price's case, the trial judge conducted a second voir dire examination. Price's attorneys were present for this second voir dire. The trial judge began the voir dire himself, with a series of questions, but he asked no questions concerning criminal convictions, losing the right to vote, or any other related matters. Following this, Price's attorneys conducted a lengthy and extensive voir dire, but asked no questions concerning criminal convictions, losing the right to vote, or any other related matters.

W.P. was a member of the jury pool for this case. Once the voir dire had concluded, Toyota used a peremptory strike to remove W.P. from the jury panel. Price challenged the strike of W.P., under Batson, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), arguing that the strike was racially motivated. After considering Toyota's stated reasons for the strike, the trial judge disallowed

Page 135

the strike and, at Price's request, seated W.P. on the jury.

On May 13, 1995, the jury returned a verdict for Toyota. After the verdict was returned, Price's attorneys investigated the members of the jury and learned that W.P. had pleaded guilty to burglary in the third degree, a Class C felony, and resisting arrest, a Class B misdemeanor. Price then moved for a new trial, arguing that she was entitled to a new trial because, she said, if W.P. had revealed his burglary conviction "[her attorneys] could have ... asked ... [follow-up] questions, including whether [W.P.'s] civil rights had been subsequently restored," to determine if W.P. was statutorily disqualified to serve on a jury, pursuant to § 12-16-60(a)(4). Toyota opposed Price's new trial motion, arguing that Price had waived her right to challenge W.P.'s qualifications to sit on the jury by failing to exercise due diligence to identify statutorily disqualified venire members during voir dire and by challenging Toyota's strike of W.P. despite Price's lack of knowledge of whether W.P. was statutorily qualified to serve on the jury. In support of its argument in opposition to Price's new trial motion, Toyota attached the affidavit of juror W.P., in which W.P. stated in part:

"I recall the question being asked whether anyone had been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude. I did not understand the question and I do not know what is meant by the term moral turpitude. I did not mean to deceive anyone by not answering this question....

"To the best of my knowledge, I believe that I have the right to vote in any election. I am not aware that my right to vote has been revoked."

After considering the arguments from both sides, the trial court denied Price's new trial motion, on the basis of the "invited error doctrine."

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The plaintiff, Price, appealed the trial judge's denial of her new trial motion to this Court; pursuant to Ala.Code 1975, § 12-2-7, we transferred the appeal to the Court of Civil Appeals. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court's denial of Price's motion for a new trial. That court wrote:

"Our supreme court has held that a prospective juror's conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude is both a disqualification and a common law ground for a challenge for cause. Noble Trucking Co. v. Payne, 664 So.2d 202 (Ala.1995); Chrysler Credit Corp. v. McKinney, 456 So.2d 1069 (Ala.1984). Furthermore, 'a new trial is mandated where a juror serves who has failed to respond to a specific question based upon a statutory disqualification.' Chrysler Credit Corp., 456 So.2d at 1071."

Price v. Toyota Motor Corp., 684 So.2d at 131. On this certiorari review, Toyota requests that we reverse the Court of Civil Appeals' holding and reinstate the judgment in its favor.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

On certiorari review, this Court accords no presumption of correctness to the legal conclusions of the intermediate appellate court. Therefore, we must apply de novo the standard of review that was applicable in the Court of Civil Appeals. In McBride v. Sheppard, 624 So.2d 1069, 1070-71 (Ala.1993), this Court stated the standard applicable on review of a trial court's ruling on a motion for new trial:

"[T]he ruling on a motion for new trial is within the discretion of the trial court[,] and ... the trial court's decision carries a strong presumption of correctness. Gold Kist, Inc. v. Tedder, 580 So.2d 1321, 1322 (Ala.1991). The decision of the trial court should not be disturbed on appeal unless the record plainly and palpably shows that the trial court erred and that some legal right has been abused."

I.

Judge Cates, while serving on the Court of Appeals, wrote Beasley v. State, 39 Ala.App. 182, 96 So.2d 693 (1957), Alabama's leading case in the area of disqualified jurors. In Beasley, he enunciated a three-part test for reviewing trial court rulings on new trial motions in cases where an allegedly disqualified person served...

To continue reading

Request your trial
80 practice notes
  • Ex parte M.D.C., No. 10771625 (Ala. 10/1/2009), No. 10771625.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • October 1, 2009
    ...Therefore, we must apply de novo the standard of review that was applicable in the Court of Civil Appeals." Ex parte Toyota Motor Corp., 684 So. 2d 132, 135 (Ala. Section 26-18-7(a), Ala. Code 1975 (now § 12-15-319), of the CPA provides as follows: "If the court finds from clear and convinc......
  • Giles v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • April 30, 2004
    ...defect that would void the proceedings in the circuit court. As the Alabama Supreme Court stated in Ex parte Toyota Motor Corp., 684 So.2d 132 "Under Alabama law, a `[f]ailure to timely challenge a juror for cause may result in a waiver of the right to do so if the fact of disqualification ......
  • Giles v. Culliver, Case No. CV-06-S-348-S
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • April 3, 2013
    ...defect that would void the proceedings in the circuit court. As the Alabama Supreme Court stated in Ex parte Toyota Motor Corp., 684 So. 2d 132 (Ala. 1996):"Under Alabama law, a '[f]ailure to timely challenge a juror for cause may result in a waiver of the right to do so if the fact of disq......
  • Smith v. LeFleur (Ex parte LeFleur), 1190191
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • November 6, 2020
    ...Therefore, we must apply de novo the standard of review that was applicable in the Court of Civil Appeals.’ Ex parte Toyota Motor Corp., 684 So. 2d 132, 135 (Ala. 1996)." Ex parte Exxon Mobil Corp., 926 So. 2d 303, 308 (Ala. 2005)."We review a summary judgment by the following standard:" ‘ ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
79 cases
  • Ex parte M.D.C., No. 10771625 (Ala. 10/1/2009), No. 10771625.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • October 1, 2009
    ...Therefore, we must apply de novo the standard of review that was applicable in the Court of Civil Appeals." Ex parte Toyota Motor Corp., 684 So. 2d 132, 135 (Ala. Section 26-18-7(a), Ala. Code 1975 (now § 12-15-319), of the CPA provides as follows: "If the court finds from clear and convinc......
  • Giles v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • April 30, 2004
    ...defect that would void the proceedings in the circuit court. As the Alabama Supreme Court stated in Ex parte Toyota Motor Corp., 684 So.2d 132 "Under Alabama law, a `[f]ailure to timely challenge a juror for cause may result in a waiver of the right to do so if the fact of disqualification ......
  • Giles v. Culliver, Case No. CV-06-S-348-S
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • April 3, 2013
    ...defect that would void the proceedings in the circuit court. As the Alabama Supreme Court stated in Ex parte Toyota Motor Corp., 684 So. 2d 132 (Ala. 1996):"Under Alabama law, a '[f]ailure to timely challenge a juror for cause may result in a waiver of the right to do so if the fact of disq......
  • Smith v. LeFleur (Ex parte LeFleur), 1190191
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • November 6, 2020
    ...Therefore, we must apply de novo the standard of review that was applicable in the Court of Civil Appeals.’ Ex parte Toyota Motor Corp., 684 So. 2d 132, 135 (Ala. 1996)." Ex parte Exxon Mobil Corp., 926 So. 2d 303, 308 (Ala. 2005)."We review a summary judgment by the following standard:" ‘ ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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