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Merck’s request for juror inquiry denied

A federal judge will not interview a juror despite her claims that she was “coerced” into agreeing with a verdict awarding $550,000 to a former Merck & Co. employee in a wrongful-termination lawsuit.

U.S. District Court Judge Benson Everett Legg, in denying Merck’s request, wrote on Thursday that he found no evidence of outside information or influence on jurors’ deliberations in Jennifer Scott’s case.

“Merck has not made a showing that counsels the Court to make inquiry of Juror #4 or her colleagues,” Legg wrote.

The jury found in Scott’s favor after three hours of deliberation late on Jan. 14 at the end of a weeklong trial. The verdict came just before the start of a three-day holiday weekend that featured the Baltimore Ravens’ playoff game with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The unidentified juror called Scott’s former boss in the week after the trial. Raymond C. Baldwin, Merck’s lawyer, returned the call and learned of the juror’s allegations. The juror claimed the foreperson refused to request exhibits and the jury wanted to finish deliberations “as quickly as possible,” Legg wrote. But the judge ruled the juror’s testimony “would be incompetent to impeach the jury’s verdict.”

In a footnote, Legg wrote that Baldwin violated a Local Rule by directly contacting the juror, although the judge found Baldwin acted in good faith.

“[T]he court wishes to remind counsel of their obligation to adhere to the Local Rules and not to contact jurors to discuss their service without the permission of the presiding judge,” Legg wrote.