Jury at ‘impasse’ in Crescent lawsuit

mgordon@charlotteobserver.comMay 10, 2013 

A Mecklenburg County jury has told a judge that its 12 members are at an “impasse” in a $15 million negligence suit against Crescent Resources.

Just after 11 a.m. Friday, the foreman told Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin that the jury is locked in an 8-3-1 vote and that three jurors “are not willing to move forward from their position.”

Thursday afternoon, the jury was split 4-5-3, with the foreman letting it slip, against the judge’s wishes, that four jurors favored the plaintiffs.

Two families are suing Crescent, claiming that the company’s failure to install a promised light at an intersection on N.C. 49 contributed to three deaths there in 2009.

Company attorneys say that traffic studies before the accident found that the light was not warranted. They say the deaths were caused by two drivers who started racing each other at high speeds. One of them crashed into another at the intersection. Three people died.

The trial, now endings its third week in the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, has been in the jury’s hands since Tuesday.

After the foreman said the six men and six women were at an impasse, Ervin met privately with attorneys from both sides to determine the next step.

Ervin then asked the foreman if there was “any reasonable likelihood” of the required unanimous verdict.

The foreman responded that he would like the jury to deliberate for the rest of the day to see if the disagreements could be worked out. About seven jurors raised their hands when the judge asked if they thought the strategy could work. At least four raised their hands that they thought it would not.

After the jury left to resume its discussions, Ervin asked the attorneys for their opinions on the next step.

Fred DeVore, who represents one of the families suing Crescent, suggested “taking the jury's temperature in an hour.”

Gordon: 704-358-5095

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