Brief Fact Summary. The issues in the case centered on whether the Defendant, John C. Hickey, Inc. (Defendant), was negligent or whether the Plaintiff, Robb (Plaintiff), was contributorily negligent. The jury’s verdict found the Defendant to be more negligent than Plaintiff and awarded damages. The court found the jury’s verdict to be vague and ambiguous with regard to the final decision.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A court may mold an informal verdict to render it formal, effective and make it coincide with the substance of the verdict as agreed upon and intended by the jury. However, this power is only exercised where the real purpose and intent of the jury clearly, sufficiently and convincingly appears.
Issue. Whether the court may inject its own decision when a jury returns an ambiguous and inconsistent verdict.
Held. No. Reading the verdict as a whole, it is self-contradictory, inconsistent and ambiguous. One is left to infer and surmise as to the real purpose of the jury. The verdict was defective in substance and form.
Discussion. The verdict in this case was uncertain and ambiguous in that it erroneously compared the degrees of the parties’ negligence and therefore, could not be molded or deemed to be an informal verdict. Therefore, the court could not substitute its own verdict in place thereof.