Lawyers continue to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we discussed in a previous post, for litigators this may involve participating in remote depositions as courts attempt to keep discovery moving. We also provided tips for lawyers taking remote depositions. With thanks to our Faegre Drinker colleagues who have ventured into this new world and shared a great deal of useful advice with the authors, here we discuss some of the practical considerations for lawyers defending remote depositions.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep many lawyers, clients and witnesses at home. As we discussed in a previous post, many courts are encouraging or requiring remote depositions, typically by videoconference, to keep discovery moving. Lawyers taking these depositions will have to do all of the things they usually do and more to deal with the challenges of a deposition environment unfamiliar to many of us.
Practicing law at a socially appropriate distance has forced many litigators to broadly consider the value of face-to-face interaction—and what may be lost in its absence. A recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court opinion highlights the importance of face-to-face interaction between a trial court judge and prospective jurors during voir dire. It also unfolds a cautionary tale about waiver for counsel who would challenge a prospective juror based on actual bias.
In Trigg v. Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, 2020 WL 1932639 (Pa. Apr. 22, 2020), the Court found a medical malpractice plaintiff waived her objection to the procedure by which the trial court had evaluated an objection to a juror’s actual bias. The plaintiff challenged the juror for cause at trial, but argued for the first time in post-trial motions that the judge did not have the chance to observe the person’s “demeanor” because jury selection was overseen by the court clerk, with the challenge evaluated by the judge based only on the transcript record.
Jurors are factfinders. In many deliberation rooms, however, jurors must begin their discussions without ready access to the exhibits admitted during trial. If a jury requests particular exhibits or evidence, then a trial court may exercise its discretion to decide whether to provide the requested materials. And in some courtrooms, a jury’s requests to review specific exhibits are routinely denied.
Abuse of discretion is a challenging standard of review for any appealing party. What would a party need to show to establish that a trial court abused its discretion? A recent opinion from Pennsylvania Superior Court, Schrader v. Ameron International Corporation, No. 2609 EDA 2018, 2020 WL 1460697 (Pa. Super. March 24, 2020), sheds some light.