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Supreme Court to review tangled ‘Lester’ case

The 2010 Charlottesville trial that led to a record wrongful death verdict and the apparent retirement of a prominent personal injury lawyer will be scrutinized by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

The court has granted appeals sought by both sides in the case arising from the 2007 death of a 25-year-old nurse whose car was crushed by a concrete truck. The case brought verdicts totaling $10.577 million, but the trial judge cut the verdict by more than $4 million, concluding the jury had been led astray by courtroom theatrics.

The judge also ordered plaintiff’s lawyer Matthew Murray to pay $524,000 in sanctions for hiding evidence and concealing his own misconduct. Murray announced he was quitting law practice.

The issues accepted for review by the Supreme Court are:

  • Whether the defendants were entitled to a new trial in light of misconduct by Murray and by plaintiff Isaiah Lester, husband of the accident victim.
  • Whether the trial judge should have declared a mistrial for juror bias based on an undisclosed business connection between Murray and the jury foreperson.
  • Whether the trial judge abused his discretion in reducing the jury’s verdict for Isaiah Lester as beneficiary of his wife’s estate.

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