Missouri Supreme Court finds that technology increases attorneys’ burden under their duty of diligence to clients

Missouri Supreme Court finds that technology increases attorneys’ burden under their duty of diligence to clients

Attorneys are bound by their ethical duties to diligently represent their clients. This includes adequately researching jurors, the consequences of not doing so may be ominous for both the client and the attorney. For example, in a recent Missouri case, Johnson v. McCullough, a juror did not disclose her prior litigation history in response to a voir dire question. After a verdict was rendered, plaintiff’s counsel utilized Missouri’s automated case record service to investigate the juror’s civil litigation history and found that the juror had neglected to disclosure that she was previously a defendant in several debt collection cases and a personal injury actions.

The court upheld plaintiff’s request for a new trial but admonished the attorneys, stating “litigants should endeavor to prevent retrials by completing an early investigation.” Specifically, the Missouri Supreme Court noted that “in light of advances in technology allowing greater access to information that can inform a trial court about the past litigation history of venire members, it is appropriate to place a greater burden on the parties to bring such matters to the court’s attention at an earlier stage.” The Court also inferred that in the future a late disclosure could prohibit a request for a new trial based on juror nondisclosure. “Until a Supreme Court rule can be promulgated to provide specific direction, to preserve the issue of a juror’s nondisclosure, a party must use reasonable efforts to examine the litigation history on Case.net of those jurors selected but not empanelled and present to the trial court any relevant information prior to trial