In a court of law, there are many different roles – judge, attorney, court reporter, bailiff, juror, etc. Each person has a specific job, and the sanctity of the legal system depends upon each job being carried out correctly.
While the judge is charged with the responsibility of interpreting the laws and ruling on the various motions filed by the parties, it is the jury that is the trier of fact. As a result, jurors determine which witnesses are to be believed and which party should prevail based upon the evidence. In personal injury cases such as those arising from car accidents, the jury is also charged with the task of determining the amount of damages to which an injured person is entitled.
In the recent unpublished opinion of Rose v. Farina, the court of appeals was asked to determine whether a jury had been inconsistent in its answers to three specific questions posed to it in a car accident case.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff and the defendant were involved in a car wreck in 2007. The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant, alleging that he had been injured in the crash and that the defendant was at fault. The case proceeded to a jury trial, at which the defendant presented evidence to the effect that the plaintiff’s injuries were preexisting.
After the conclusion of the evidence, which included expert testimony pertaining to the plaintiff’s injuries, the jury was given instructions and asked to answer three questions: was the defendant negligent; was the defendant’s negligence the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries; and what amount of money would fairly and adequately compensate the plaintiff for the damages caused by the defendant’s negligence.
After the jury returned the answers of “yes, yes, and zero dollars,” the plaintiff objected to the verdict. He also requested that the judge reinstruct the jury regarding damages and order additional deliberations. The judge overruled the objection, dismissed the jury, and denied the plaintiff’s subsequent motion for additur or a new trial.
The Court of Appeals’ Opinion
Upon consideration, the trial court vacated the judgment of the trial court and remanded the case for a new trial. The court agreed with the plaintiff that the jury’s verdict was inconsistent in that it found the defendant to be the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries but declined to award damages. The defendant’s only contest to the plaintiff’s injuries was that they were related to preexisting injuries. Thus, the record did not support an implied finding that the injuries, whenever they were suffered, failed to result in damages to the plaintiff.
Since it was no longer possible to ask the jury to reconsider its answers, the court’s only choice under Massachusetts Rule of Civil Procedure 49(b) was to vacate the judgment and remand the case for a new trial.
For a Free Review of Your Case
Injury cases can be complicated, even when the outcome seems obvious to the injured person. It pays to have an experienced Massachusetts motor vehicle accident attorney represent you against the responsible party and his or her insurance company. To schedule a free initial consultation with the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, call us at 888-262-6664 and ask for a review of your Hyannis, Plymouth, or other Massachusetts accident case.
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