November 30, 2017 Articles

Lawyers Investigate Juror Without Court’s Knowledge or Permission

Learn how Exxon Mobil counsel put a case at risk with potential juror intimidation

By Michael R. Lied

Charles Krik has lung cancer. He sued Owens-Illinois, Inc., and Exxon Mobil Corp. as asbestos defendants. Causation was murky. Krik smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes every day for 30 years, but he also worked aboard navy vessels removing insulation produced by Owens-Illinois, which he claimed exposed him to asbestos fibers. For two weeks, he worked as an independent contractor at Exxon Mobil’s Joliet, Illinois, refinery replacing heaters that Krik claimed were insulated with asbestos.

After a seven-day trial, a jury found that cigarettes were the sole cause of Krik’s cancer. On appeal, Krik claimed that two rulings by the district court deprived him of a fair trial. First, he asserted that the district court erred by excluding testimony about medical causation from his expert, Dr. Arthur Frank. But that is not the focus of this article, because it is specific to asbestos-related injuries. Second, Krik claimed that he was denied a fair trial when Mobil, with the knowledge of Owens-Illinois, hired a private investigator to secretly conduct an interview of a sitting juror’s acquaintance.

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