Brief Fact Summary. The plaintiff was a landlord suing to recover for damages caused to his tenant’s restaurant by a gas explosion. The plaintiff contended that the flashlight used by the defendant’s employee caused the explosion, and the defendant argued that the explosion was caused by an oil burning stove being used by the plaintiff’s tenant.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A court may allow a jury to take evidence for use in their deliberations, including any exhibit, if the proper precautions and instructions are utilized.
Issue. Was it error to grant a new trial when the jury had the flashlight during their deliberations?
Held. Justice Henshaw issued the opinion for the Supreme Court of California and reversed the order granting a new trial, and held that the defendant would not be in a better position if the jury found the explosion was caused by the flashlight or if it was caused by the stove, because the tenant’s contributory negligence is not relevant in the landlords’ cause of action.
Discussion. It is the duty of the court to properly instruct the jury and limit their use of evidence in the deliberation room. However, cautionary instructions are extremely important when allowing evidence into a jury ro.