Chiarella v. Ford

This is a warning and a reminder to plaintiff’s attorneys. If two parts of a verdict appear legally inconsistent, counsel must ask for the court to resubmit the case to the jury before it is discharged in order to preserve the issue for appeal. An objection that the verdict is inconsistent and a ruling on the objection is insufficient. You must ask for the specific remedy of having the jury reconsider the verdict.

This is a negligence case arising from a motor vehicle accident. The defendant admitted fault, but disputed (1) the cause of the plaintiff's injuries, (2) the permanency of the plaintiff's injuries, and (3) the damages sustained by the plaintiff. Here, a finding by the jury that Defendant was the cause of spinal surgery appeared inconsistent with the finding that he suffered no permanent injury and deserved no non-economic damages.

Plaintiff objected that the verdict was inconsistent because if the surgery was caused by negligence, the uncontroverted evidence was that it was a permanent injury. The defense did not see a problem with the verdict in light of evidence of preexisting and post-accident injuries, but the defense expert had admitted that if the jury believed the spinal surgery was caused by the car accident with Defendant, then spinal surgery was a permanent injury.

In 2015, the Supreme Court of Florida held that to preserve the issue of an inconsistent verdict, the party claiming inconsistency must raise the issue before the jury is discharged and ask the trial court to reinstruct the jury and send it back for further deliberations. While Plaintiff “objected,” counsel then said that he was he was “simply bringing it to Your Honor's attention, because” the verdict seemed inconsistent. The trial judge ruled on the objection, stating he would not “overturn [the verdict] or suggest that the jury should go back and deliberate.” Somehow this was not enough for the DCA because the attorney didn’t ask for it and the judge just sua sponte said he would not do it. AFFIRMED.

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