Oracle CEO Ellison Sits On Jury in California Slip and Fall Accident
The constitution says we are entitled to a jury of our peers. In the case of Elisa Miramontes vs James Ford Inc. one of her peers apparently is the fifth wealthiest man in the world, Larry Ellison. His wealth has been estimated at 39 billion dollars. As an Alameda personal injury lawyer, who has represented many accident victims in court, I wonder whether I would want Mr. Ellison sitting on one of my client’s juries. What do you think? Would you want Mr. Ellison on your jury if you were in Ms. Miramontes’ position?
Here’s the facts. Ms. Miramontes slipped and fell at a Ford dealership in Half Moon Bay. She alleges that she fell when she slipped on diesel fuel which leaked out from the service center at the dealership. As a result of her fall, she suffered injuries and unspecific damages.
In a slip and fall case, the person suing, known as the plaintiff, must prove the following: the plaintiff must show that the fuel was on the ground, that the dealership was negligent in allowing the fuel to be on the ground and that the dealership had notice of the dangerous condition. Notice can be either constructive or actual. Notice is actual if one of the employees knew of the fuel on the ground but did not clean the area. Notice is constructive if the fuel was on the ground for a long enough time period that the dealership should have known of its existence if it did reasonable inspections of the premises. If she can establish all of the above, she must then prove by medical testimony that the fall was the legal cause of her injuries and other damages.
In California, Code of Civil Procedure section 222.5 guarantees the right of each side to ask prospective jurors questions for the purpose of determining potential bias. The process is known as voir dire. In a civil case, each side can exercise six peremptory challenges and an unlimited number of challenges for cause. A challenge for cause is exercised when it is demonstrated that the potential juror is biased in the case and could not be a fair juror. A peremptory challenge is a challenge for any reason whatsoever, except for race, gender or creed. Each side is entitled to six peremptory challenges in a civil case.
So I don’t know anything about Mr. Ellison or the particular facts of this case other than what is stated above. But do you think Mr. Ellison drives his Ford to the dealership and gets his own car serviced? Do you think Mr. Ellison who owns a billion dollar company relates more to the Ford Dealership or to Ms. Miramontes? Do you think Mr. Ellison believes in the right of injured persons to sue large corporations or do you think he believes such rights should be limited? Do you think Mr. Ellison who spent over a 100 million dollars to bring the America’s Cup to San Francisco has any clue what it is like to live in the ordinary circumstances of everyday life in Half Moon Bay?
What’s your opinion? Do you exercise the peremptory challenge or not? Ms. Miramontes did not, so Mr. Ellison sits on her jury. She’ll find out in the next few days the propriety of that decision.
The Oakland Tribune, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison serving on Redwood City jury in personal injury case, March 28, 2011