Jacksonville, FL— Jury selection began over video conference Thursday in a damages-only battery case against a Florida strip, moving one step closer to what’s believed will be the nation’s first fully remote jury trial with a binding verdict. Griffin v. Albanese Enterprise, Inc.
“You’re making history today,” Florida Fourth Circuit Court Judge Bruce Anderson told potential jurors Thursday morning. “You’re each restoring the sound of freedom to the Duval County Courthouse by your remote appearance here today.”
Jurors appeared from their homes using the Zoom application as Judge Anderson, presiding from the courthouse, delivered charges unimaginable before Covid-19 and social distancing. “Do not turn off your video while we’re in court, while we’re in session,” Judge Anderson instructed at one point. “We all need to be able to see each one of you, so please don’t turn it off.”
The damages-only trial stems from a February 2018 beating Cayla Griffin says she suffered at the hands of a Jacksonville-area strip club's bouncers.
According to her complaint, Griffin, a former dancer at the Paradise Gentleman’s Club, claims she was working a shift at the club when a bouncer told her she had been fired the previous night. Griffin contends she denied being fired, but rather than wait for police to arrive to settle the dispute, the bouncer threw her out of the club’s back door, leaving most of her clothes, cell phone, and wallet still inside.
In her complaint, Griffin says she then approached the club’s front entrance to recover her things. But two bouncers, including the man who originally threw her out, struck her, bloodying her face, knocking out several teeth, and sending her tumbling to the pavement.
Default judgment was entered against the only named defendant in the case, the club’s owner, Albanese Enterprise, Inc., last year, leading to this month’s trial on damages, in which Albanese is not a participant.
An online listing Thursday describes the club as “temporarily closed.”
On Thursday morning, Griffin’s attorney, Sheppard, White, Kachergus & DeMaggio's Matthew Kachergus acknowledged the unprecedented circumstances pushing the proceedings to teleconference. “I have to confess, with covid and what’s going on, this is a brave new world for all of us,” Kachergus said, introducing voir dire. “This is strange. I’m a hugger, I’m a hand shaker, and covid has blown all of that up.”
The proceeding is part of the Fourth Circuit’s involvement in the state's remote jury trial pilot program, addressing court disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Traditional jury trials have been suspended throughout the state since March 13.
The Fourth Circuit is one of five Florida circuits selected for the pilot program. Last month, the 11th Circuit held a one-day trial over an insurance coverage dispute. Jurors in that case were selected via Zoom but appeared in the courtroom for trial to render a non-binding verdict.
Jury selection in the Griffin case is expected to conclude Friday with the openings in the one-day trial expected to start Monday morning.
Email Arlin Crisco at email@example.com.