Can a Jury Be Sent Back to Deliberate If Its Verdict Is Inconsistent but Has No Ambiguity or Evidence of Misunderstanding ?
In Fillmore v. Hill, 445 Pa. Super. 324, 665 A.2d 514, 516 (Pa. Super. 1995), the plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident.
The jury found that the defendant was negligent, and his negligence was a substantial factor in bringing about the plaintiff's harm.
However, the jury also found that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent, and his contributory negligence was a substantial factor in bringing about his harm.
The jury then attributed fifty percent of the causal negligence to each party, thus the plaintiff's total compensable damages sustained was zero.
The plaintiff failed to object to the jury's verdict but filed post-trial motions.
The defendant contended that the plaintiff waived his right to object to the jury's verdict by failing to object before the jury was dismissed.
The Court held that the trial judge did not have the option of sending the jury back to deliberate because there was no ambiguity or evidence of misunderstanding that resulted in an inconsistent jury's verdict.
The Court noted that the waiver rule "is more prudently restricted to verdicts of obvious inconsistency and clear, uncertain irrationality." Fillmore, 665 A.2d at 519 (citing Henery v. Shadle, 443 Pa. Super. 331, 661 A.2d 439, 441 (Pa. Super. 1995)).