Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many changes have been made in the way people are conducting business, and that includes the legal profession.
Matthew Pearson, of Pearson Legal P.C., participated in the first-ever civil summary jury trial over Zoom on Monday, May 18. It was an experiment to get the civil judicial system up and running after being shut down by the pandemic.
The one-day civil proceeding with a non-binding verdict was held by the Collin County District Court with Judge Emily Miskel and Judge Keith Dean presiding. More than two dozen potential jurors communicated by laptops, tablets and smartphones. Judge Miskel presided over the technical aspect of the proceeding and gave potential jurors advice on how to most effectively use their devices. Judge Dean presided over the trial.
After twelve jurors had been selected, they listened to the evidence and the arguments of the lawyers and were then broken into two groups of six to deliberate and reach a verdict. Judge Miskel placed the two groups into separate virtual rooms where they could speak privately and review the evidence which was provided to them via Dropbox.
The lawsuit was filed by Virtuwave Holdings against State Farm for failing to honor its obligations to cover property damage caused by a hail storm in March 2017.
The jury selection was livestreamed over YouTube, but the rest of the proceeding was private as it was part of the court’s dispute resolution process. Pearson, who represented the building owner, told the Associated Press that being in the comfort of their own homes seemed to make the jurors more responsive to questions. They were also attentive as he presented evidence by sharing his computer screen over Zoom.
“Overall, it was a better experience than I expected,” Pearson said.
“No one is saying tomorrow we’re going to start trying serious felonies over Zoom,” said Judge Miskel. Even so, this test trial was a good way to try a different way of getting the wheels of justice moving again. The shutdown caused by COVID-19 has left cases unsettled and kept criminal defendants languishing in custody, which can be dangerous for them due to potential outbreaks.
Pearson Legal, P.C., specializes in insurance recovery. They have a long record of success in resolving disputes such as wrongful denial and underpayment of claims by trial and settlements. If you have a dispute with your insurance company, contact them.