BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Kern County judge has granted a new trial in a lawsuit that resulted in a $73 million verdict against Chevron after finding a juror failed to disclose a past felony conviction that made him ineligible to serve.
During the jury selection process, the juror did not inform attorneys of a 1982 conviction in Washington for indecent liberties with a child, according to the ruling made late last month by Judge David Lampe. Each juror was asked if they had previously been to court for any reason.
At issue was whether that crime, if it had occurred in California, would have resulted in the juror having to register as a sex offender, making him ineligible to serve on a jury.
Lampe found the elements of the Washington charge and the juror’s 1982 admission to a psychologist that he had sexual contact with a minor once a week for four months would have been equivalent to a California conviction of committing a lewd or lascivious act with a child under 14 — and would have required lifetime sex offender registration.
“He gave a false answer to conceal embarrassing details of his past,” Lampe wrote in the ruling filed Oct. 27. “In addition to his false answer, he ignored the orders of the court. The court admonished all jurors that if some of their responses would reveal information that they considered confidential and wished to keep private, they should so indicate, and the court would examine them outside the presence of the other jurors.”
The dismissal of the conviction after completing probation terms makes no difference to the juror’s ability to serve in California, Lampe wrote.
The same juror also refused to wear a mask and was reportedly profane and rude to other jurors while in the jury room, according to court documents.
“The court here is confronted with an obstinate, untruthful, obstreperous, contemptuous, ineligible and entitle juror, refusing the orders of the court, who was loud, opinionated and intimidating in jury deliberations, and whose participation influenced the outcome,” Lampe wrote.
A hearing to set new trial dates is scheduled for Jan. 6.
TRC filed a suit in 2014 alleging negligence on the part of Chevron’s underground steam injection work at the Midway-Sunset oil field resulted in loss of production totaling millions of dollars. Chevron countersued and said TRC was responsible for the unsafe conditions.
The jury returned a verdict against Chevron in September.