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Land Mine #9: Jury Verdict

Land Mine #9: Jury Verdict

To preserve for appellate purposes any error created by the receipt of an internally inconsistent verdict, an objection must be made before the jury is discharged. Inadequate verdicts are challenged by motion for new trial.

A major land mine regarding jury verdicts is the two-issue rule. That rule provides: “[W]here there is no proper objection to the use of a general verdict, reversal is improper where no error is found as to one of two issues submitted to the jury on the basis that the appellant is unable to establish that he has been prejudiced.”

If two or more issues relating to a single claim for damages have been submitted to a jury on a general verdict form, an error affecting only one of the issues will not invalidate the verdict. The use of a general verdict form makes it impossible to determine whether the error complained of contributed to the ultimate decision. Because the decision of the jury may have been based on an issue unrelated to the alleged trial error, the aggrieved party cannot establish a basis for reversal.

The “two-issue” rule is an economical tool that limits appellate review to issues that actually affect the case. Litigants can avoid application of the rule by simply requesting a special or interrogatory verdict form that will reveal the reason for the jury’s decision, thereby enabling the trial attorney to determine whether the decision was affected in any way by the alleged error. “It should be remembered . . . that the remedy is always in the hands of counsel.”

The two-issue rule applies to actions brought on two theories of liability, as to which just a single basis for damages applies. It does not apply when two distinct claims for liability result in separate claims for damages in the same action.

Next week we will focus on Land Mine #10: Motion for New Trial.

The Law Offices of Jennifer S. Carroll, P.A.

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Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410
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