Employee is injured on the job and sues his employer. At trial the jury renders a special verdict in favor of Plaintiff.
The court must attempt to reconcile the jury’s findings before it may disregard the jury’s special verdict and remand the case for a new trial.
Plaintiff Gallick worked on Defendant Baltimore & Ohio’s railroad. Near where Plaintiff worked there was a pool of standing water that had decomposing rats and pigeons. Defendant B&O was aware of the standing water but did not fix the problem. Plaintiff Gallick was bitten by a bug attracted to the standing water and ended up having both of his legs amputated. Plaintiff Gallick sued Defendant B&O under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. At trial the jury rendered a special verdict, with which it answered tens of interrogatories. Upon answering the interrogatories the jury found that Plainiff Gallick’s injury was not foreseeable. The trial court still found in favor of Gallick, but the court of appeals reversed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Must a court attempt to reconcile the jury’s finding before it disregards the jury’s special verdict and remands the case for a new trial?
Yes, a court must attempt to reconcile the jury’s finding before it disregards the jury’s special verdict and remands the case for a new trial. The holding below is reversed.
Justice Justice Harlan dissenting
The Supreme Court should not have taken this case because it is not one that resolves a significant federal question as is required under Supreme Court Rule 19.
Justice Justice Stewart with Justice Goldberg dissenting
The necessity of the court to remedy inconsistencies only occurs when there is a special and a general verdict. Here there was only a special verdict and therefore the reconciliation of the court is not necessary. A key factor in proving negligence under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act depends on foreseeability, and the jury clearly said that B&O could not have foreseen Plaintiff’s injuries. Therefore the holding below should be set aside and remanded for a new trial.
1. The court must attempt to make a fair reading of the verdict.
3. The jury came up with inconsistent findings: that Defendant B&O was aware of the stagnant water, but that Plaintiff Gallick’s injuries were not foreseeable by B&O.
3. The record shows that there was enough evidence for the jury to find Defendant B&O negligent. The jury just misapplied the term “reasonably foreseeable”.
4. The best way to interpret the jury’s finding is to hold that the jury did believe that Defendant B&O was negligent in forcing Plaintiff Gallick to work at a dangerous site where he could be severely injured.
5. The holding below is reversed.