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Judge denies retrial in Hamrick suit against IID

March 22, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ

Staff Writer

A new trial for a woman who tripped on Imperial Irrigation District property in 1996 was denied today.

Superior Court Judge Joseph Zimmerman said a fair trial was held.

"It wasn't a perfect trial, but you're not entitled to a perfect trial," he said. "I'm going to deny the motion."

The plaintiff in the case was El Centro resident Carmen Hamrick, who tripped, fell and injured herself while on IID property in El Centro. She was enroute to a meeting Oct. 16, 1996.

The motion for retrial, filed by Hamrick attorney Lowell Sutherland of El Centro, states the retrial was sought on the following grounds:

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· irregularity in the proceedings of the court

· irregularity in the proceedings of the jury

· irregularity in the proceedings of the adverse party

· improper orders of the court

· accident or surprise or other acts that ordinary prudence could not have guarded against

· newly discovered evidence, material to the moving party that could not have been discovered with reasonable diligence and produced at trial

· insufficiency of the evidence to justify the verdict

· the verdict is against law

· error in law occurring at trial and excepted to by the moving party

Sutherland and Hamrick were apparently taken by surprise by a surveillance video of Hamrick doing things with her left arm that she said under oath she could not do.

Sutherland also blamed this newspaper for his client's loss before a unanimous jury that found that an unsafe condition did not exist on the property.

"There is, of course, no way to determine the effect of the articles with any degree of certainty," Sutherland wrote in a memorandum of points of authorities in support of the motion. "We do know that after a very short deliberation the jury came back with a verdict consistent with the tenor of the editorials and the outcome suggested as correct by the newspaper articles.

"And what about the virulent articles that continued daily during the trial? Are we all to believe that in this small community no person ever mentioned the content of thrust of these articles to any juror during two weeks of trial. Not likely," the memorandum states.

In response, IID defense attorney, Frank Oswalt, argued that even if all of Sutherland's allegations were true, did they affect the outcome of a unanimous verdict, that only required nine votes, and not the 12 it got.

"Plaintiff does not attempt to argue that any more than two of the jurors became ‘poisoned' by the (Imperial Valley) Press articles," Oswalt wrote. "In light of the jury's unanimous (emphasis in original) finding as to the absence of liability on the part of IID, even if two jurors had been ‘poisoned' by the articles, the verdict would have remained consistent."

Separately, Oswalt wrote: "The plaintiff seems to ascribe a supernatural power to the local newspaper."

He also said what likely swayed the jury was the videotape of Hamrick doing those things she had testified to that she could not do.

The IID has requested the plaintiff pay $15,727.46 in court fees.

>> Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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