Brief Fact Summary. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois found that the Adamses (Defendants) were negligent and that their negligence was the proximate cause of the assault on Susan Wassell (Plaintiff). The court of appeals affirmed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A new trial can be granted only when the jury’s verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence, and the court of appeals can reverse only when persuaded that in applying this standard, the district judge abused his discretion
Issue. Did the court err in allowing the jury’s determination to stand, that Plaintiff’s negligence was a relevant, contributory factor to the circumstances that resulted in her injuries and denying her Motion for a New Trial?
* Did the trial court abuse its discretion in determining that the jury’s verdict was not against the clear weight of the evidence?
Held. The question of apportionment of blame was properly one for the jury, as the latter was the trier of fact. The court of appeals would only be justified in negating such apportionment if there was an abuse of discretion on the part of the trial judge.
* The trial judge did not abuse his discretion in refusing to set aside the verdict.
Discussion. According to the Restatement of Torts Section: 463, contributory negligence is “conduct on the part of the plaintiff which falls below the standard of conduct to which he should conform for his own protection, and which is a legally contributing cause . . . in bringing about the plaintiff’s harm.”
* The court also clearly enunciated the rule by which it is proper to set aside a jury verdict: “[t]he federal standard is that a new trial can be granted only when the jury’s verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence, and the court of appeals can reverse only when persuaded that in applying this standard the district judge abused his discretion.”