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Court Reporter Goes Rogue in Wisconsin

Posted on: May 10th, 2021 by Sfl Media No Comments

Nobody was surprised when Hyundai Motors, the Korean automaker, planned to appeal after a Racine County, Wisconsin jury returned a $38.1 million verdict against the company.

But nobody expected nearly a year later, that the appeal would remain on hold because of a missing court reporter who was responsible for providing a transcript of the trial.

Court records show that after the trial, Brande Browne agreed to have transcripts sent to Hyundai’s lawyers by March of 2020. By June the transcript still hadn’t been produced. Browne, nor her boss at the Racine Court Reporter’s office, were answering emails from Hyundai’s attorneys at the law firm of Quarles & Brady.

This scenario is one thing for sure that you won’t have to worry about with Court Scribes.

What Did the Court Reporter Do?

Finally, in mid-June, Browne responded, saying that personal and professional events had set her back, but she was working as fast as she could to complete the transcript of the 18-day trial. On June 30th, she indicated in a formal document that she would have the transcript by July 31st.

The problem is, August came, but the transcript did not. Hyundai’s lawyers emailed Browne repeatedly but never heard back. The Court of Appeals then demanded Browne file the transcript, then extended the deadline twice, before fining her $1,075 in November.

In December, the trial judge issued a warrant for Browne’s arrest after she failed to appear in court to explain why she hadn’t produced the transcript. Police have been to her home, but she was never present at the home. Calls reporters to various numbers listed went unanswered or the numbers were no longer in service.

What is the Case Against Hyundai About?

In 2015, Edward Vanderventer, 67, of Racine, Wisconsin, was stopped, waiting to turn in his 2013 Hyundai Elantra at an intersection when he was rear-ended by a 17-year-old driver.

He sued Hyundai and the driver, alleging that while the other driver caused the accident, Vanderventer’s serious back injuries, which left him a paraplegic, were caused by a defective seat that collapsed into his spine, although three passengers in his car were not seriously injured.

The jury found that a large portion of Vanderventer’s injuries was attributable to the seat design. Hyundai lost a judgment for $32.7 million of the total judgment.

 

The Appeal From Hyundai

On appeal, Hyundai plans to raise issues about how the trial was conducted. But they can’t without a reliable, accurate record of the proceedings due to the absence of the court reporter.

A court reporter, or stenographer, like the ones at Court Scribes, doesn’t just type what’s being said in court. They write the rapid speech into a type of code they must later translate into a readable transcript. They have extreme importance to the case.

Vanderventer’s attorney said the court reporter Browne was dependable throughout the trial. He said if she or her machine are never found, those drafts of daily transcripts might allow both sides, and the judge, to assemble an agreed-on final transcript for the appeal.

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