Attorney wants new trial, says race played a role in amount of jury award

David Yates Jan. 5, 2011, 8:19am

Port Arthur attorney Langston Adams is asking a local judge to vacate a jury verdict and grant his client a new trial, claiming racial motives and improper compromising sullied the jury's decision in a September personal injury trial.

As the Southeast Texas Record previously reported, on Sept. 3 a Jefferson County jury found that plaintiff Erika Arceneaux's infected foot was the result of unsanitary conditions at defendant Tina Tran's nail salon, awarding the local Arceneaux around $2,600 in damages.

Although he won the case, Adams filed a motion for new trial on Nov. 11, petitioning Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court, to grant the motion on the grounds jurors were "trading answers" despite his implicit instruction not to compromise.

Adams told the Record the white jurors did not want to award his client any monetary damages while the black members did.

He said the two opposing sides compromised by limiting Arceneaux's damage award.

The defense filed a response to Adams' motion Nov. 14, arguing that there is no evidence of jury misconduct to support his allegations.

As of Jan. 5, Judge Wortham has not made a decision on whether to allow a hearing for the motion.

Court papers show Arceneaux alleged a dirty foot tub at Nina Nails, owned by Tran, led to a case of cellulites, which is a fatty lump beneath the skin.

Jurors determined Arceneaux's mental anguish to be worth $1,000. Jurors also awarded her $484 in lost wages and $1,142.20 in past medical expenses.

In her suit, Arceneaux claims she suffered mental anguish because the tub in which she soaked her feet and the tools used at Nina Nails had not been properly disinfected, causing her feet to become infected.

Arceneaux visited the salon on Sept. 29, 2008, to receive a pedicure. Once there, she sat in a spa chair and soaked her feet.

"Plaintiff later discovered that neither the tub nor the tools used had been properly disinfected," the suit states. "Plaintiff's toes became seriously infected as a result of the pedicure ... and plaintiff was diagnosed with cellulites by her physician."

Jurors awarded Arceneaux no damages for her alleged disfigurement.

Tran is represented by Beaumont attorney Richard Hatfield.

Case No. A184-356

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