Inadequate Jury Verdict In California Law

Code of Civil Procedure section 619 states: "Proceedings When Verdict Is Informal. When the verdict is announced, if it is informal or insufficient, in not covering the issue submitted, it may be corrected by the jury under the advice of the Court, or the jury may be again sent out." The terms "informal" and "insufficient" have been broadly defined in cases interpreting section 619. "'Informal' is defined as 'defective in form; not in the usual form or manner; contrary to custom or prescribed rule.' " (Crowe v. Sacks (1955) 44 Cal. 2d 590, 596 283 P.2d 689.) "Insufficient' is defined as 'inadequate for some need, purpose or use." (44 Cal. 2d at p. 596.) Thus, section 619 applies to an inconsistent verdict. (Johnson v. Marquis (1949) 93 Cal. App. 2d 341, 355 209 P.2d 63 "The court was authorized by section 619 of the Code of Civil Procedure to instruct the jury to retire and correct the original inconsistency.".) Section 619 also applies to an ambiguous verdict. (Sparks v. Berntsen (1942) 19 Cal. 2d 308, 310-313 121 P.2d 497.) Moreover, courts are given wide latitude in deciding whether a verdict is ambiguous or inconsistent so as to come within section 619. As the California Supreme Court stated in Woodcock v. Fontana Scaffolding & Equip. Co. (1968) 69 Cal. 2d 452 72 Cal. Rptr. 217, 445 P.2d 881: "If the verdict is ambiguous the party adversely affected should request a more formal and certain verdict. Then, if the trial judge has any doubts on the subject, he may send the jury out, under proper instructions, to correct the informal or insufficient verdict." (Id. at p. 456.)