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Thiel v. Southern Pacific Co.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Thiel sought to strike the jury in his suit against Southern Pacific Co. because he believed the jurors were sympathetic to Southern Pacific Co.’s plight.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A court is not permitted to exclude daily wage earners from jury selection automatically and systematically.

    Facts.

    Thiel jumped out of a train operated by Southern Pacific Co. (SPC) and sued SPC claiming that they should have guarded him knowing that Thiel was incompetent prior to boarding the train. When given a jury trial, Thiel sought to strike the jury because all of the jurors were business owners and thought to be sympathetic to SPC. The court denied Thiel’s motion twice and the jury found for SPC. The court of appeals affirmed and Thiel appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether a court is permitted exclude daily wage earners from jury selection automatically and systematically?

    Held.

    No. The holding is reversed. The clerk testified that when they selected jurors they excluded low wage earners. The jury was not reflected of the community and therefore was economically biased.

    Discussion.

    The court should not discriminate based on economic status when selecting jurors because economic status doesn’t determine whether or not someone may serve as a competent juror.


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