Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, Magnani (Plaintiff), sued the Defendant, Trogi (Defendant) on two causes of action. The First was a wrongful death action on behalf of her deceased husband. The second, an action on her own behalf to recover funeral expenses and medical costs. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff, but incorrectly delivered the form of the verdict. The trial judge ordered a new trial because of the error.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The decision of a trial court on a motion for a new trial will not be disturbed unless a clear abuse of discretion is affirmatively shown.
Issue. Whether the trial judge abused his discretion by granting a new trial.
Held. No. Because the Defendant had filed his post-trial motion after the jury had already delivered its verdict, it was impossible for the judge to reassemble the jury and instruct them to correct the error in the form of verdict. Therefore, the trial judge in this instance did not abuse his discretion in ordering a new trial.
Dissent. Defendant’s failure to object to the forms of verdict at the proper time, as well as his later failure to show that he was in fact prejudiced, compelled the court in the instant case to find that the trial court’s finding was erroneous and Defendant’s motion for a new trial should have been denied.
Discussion. The purpose of vesting the trial judge with the power to grant a new trial is to permit him, before losing jurisdiction of the case, to correct errors that he or the jury might have made during the course of the trial.
The jury had found the Defendant liable on the wrongful death claim. However, any conclusion about the jury’s verdict regarding the family expense action would have been pure speculation.