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Turyna v. Martam Construction Co.

Citation. 83 F.3d 178
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Citation83 F.3d 178
83 F.3d 178

Brief Fact Summary.

Turyna sued Martam Construction Co., his former employer, for overtime pay and violations of Fair Labor Standards Act and Illinois public policy. After trial, Martam moved to amend the judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), to set aside a punitive damage award on the retaliatory discharge claim. The district court denied the motion. Martam appealed.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A factually inconsistent verdict returned by a jury cannot stand.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

General verdicts simply ask the jury to answer the question who won, and if the winning party is entitled to a monetary award, to answer the question how much.

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Facts.

Turyna worked for Martam as a truck driver from 1986 to 1989, when he was fired. He later sued Martam for overtime pay and alleged violations of Fair Labor Standards Act and Illinois public policy. At trial, the jury found against Turyna on the claims of retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Illinois public policy. However, the jury also awarded punitive damages to Turyna’s on the Fair Labor Standards Act retaliatory discharge claim. Martam moved to amend the judgment, pursuant toFederal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), to set aside the punitive damage award on the retaliatory discharge claim. The district court denied the motion. Martam appealed.

Issue.

Did the district court err in denying Appellee’s post-trial Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) motion seeking to amend the judgment on the retaliatory discharge court to set aside the award of punitive damages?

Held.

Yes. The court reversed and remanded; a new trial should have been ordered when the trial court’s attention was directed to the problem of  the inconsistency within the verdict.

Discussion.

There were three possibilities for salvaging the verdict. The court considered whether the verdict was sustainable as (1) a general verdict, (2) several special verdicts pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 49(a), or (3) a general verdict accompanied by interrogatories pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 49(b).  As (1) a general verdict, it was fatally inconsistent; (2) the verdict did not comply with the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 49(a), and (3) nothing in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 49(b) eliminated the need for a new trial – returning the case to the jury was not an available option and the jury was not asked factual questions about the case, other than the amount of damages.


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