Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Inconsistent Verdict Or Compromise Verdict? No Damage Verdict Against Insurer Upheld

In Smith v. Florida Healthy Kids Corporation and Clarendon National Insurance Company (4D08-2490), the Fourth District clarified the difference between a "jury verdict reached by an illegal compromise, and a jury verdict reached by an entirely appropriate compromise of viewpoints which inheres in the verdict and as such, is not subject to post-trial scrutiny." 
The case proceeded to trial on a single count for breach of contract seeking, as damages, the amount of unpaid medical bills incurred by Smith as a result of injuries he sustained after being shot several times by a police officer with the Town of Jupiter Police Department....Clarendon denied coverage o n th e basis of a felony exclusion clause in the policy....The jury returned a verdict finding that Clarendon breached its contract with Smith.  The jury rendered a zero verdict on damages, which Smith contends was the result of a compromise verdict requiring a new trial. However, Smith confuses a compromise verdict with an inconsistent verdict, and the cases cited in his brief are distinguishable and entirely inapposite when applied to the facts of this case.
While Florida jurisprudence is replete with examples of compromise verdicts that are characterized by the common elements of hotly contested liability and legal inadequacy of damages, the Supreme Court of Connecticut has recently reiterated its longstanding definition of a compromise verdict:
“A compromise verdict is a ‘verdict which is reached only by the surrender of conscientious convictions upon one material issue by some jurors in return for a relinquishment by others of their like settled opinion upon another issue and the result is one which does not command the approval of the whole panel,’ and, as such, is not permitted.”
Monti v. Wenkert, 947 A.2d 261, 270 (Conn. 2008) (quoting Murray v. Krenz, 109 A. 859, 861 (1920)).
On the facts of this case, it cannot be argued that the jury verdict reached on the issues of liability and damages necessarily evinces the surrendering of conscientiously held opposing convictions upon those two issues by jurors, which resulted in a verdict that was not approved by the entire panel. Indeed, the jury was polled after its verdict; and each confirmed their verdict.
In other words, an inconsistent verdict is when two findings of fact are mutually exclusive.  A verdict is not necessarily inconsistent simply because it fails to award enough money or, as here, no money at all. Under such circumstances, there may be an issue as to the adequacy of the award, but not its inconsistency with any other award contained within the verdict.
The court cited Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. v. Pierre, 18 So. 3d 700 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009) which was discussed HERE.


Post a Comment