Hood v. McElroyAnnotate this Case
Defendant Jo Ann Hood appealed a trial court's order that granted a motion for a new trial filed by Plaintiff Elizabeth McElroy as personal representative of the estate of Austin Taylor Terry (the estate). The mother of Austin Taylor Terry, who was then 12 months old, admitted him to the Children's Hospital of Alabama. A social worker at the hospital notified the county Department of Human Resources (DHR) that Terry had suffered "suspicious non-accidental injuries." Terry's father, who was divorced from Terry's mother, also contacted DHR after he learned of his son's hospitalization. He spoke with an after-hours on-call DHR service worker learned that Chris Wesson, the mother's boyfriend, had been in the house with Terry. The service worker recommended that Terry not be allowed to return home when he was discharged. A DHR supervisor who had not seen the report, assigned Defendant to investigate Terry's suspected abuse and informed the Hospital that Terry could go home with his mother when he was discharged. Based on her investigation, Defendant determined that it was safe to leave Terry in his mother's care. Subsequently, Terry died from brain injuries caused by Wesson. Terry's parents filed separate wrongful-death actions naming Wesson, Children's Hospital, Hood, and other DHR social workers as defendants. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the estate and awarded $25,000 in damages against Wesson and Hood. The estate filed a motion for a new trial, arguing among other things, that a juror's failure to respond to a voir dire question prevented the estate from using its jury strikes effectively because it would have used one to remove the juror had the juror answered the question. After Hood filed her opposition to the estate's postjudgment motion, the court granted the motion on the ground that the estate was probably prejudiced in its right to a fair and impartial trial as a result of the juror's failure to respond to the voir dire question. Upon review, the Supreme Court could not conclude that "[the juror's] failure to reveal, in response to the particular questions asked, [provided] adequate support for a finding ... so as to warrant retrying this case." The Court reversed the trial court and remanded the case for further proceedings.