Iacurci v. Lummus Co.Annotate this Case
387 U.S. 86 (1967)
U.S. Supreme Court
Iacurci v. Lummus Co., 387 U.S. 86 (1967)
Iacurci v. Lummus Co.
No. 6, Misc.
Decided May 15, 1967
387 U.S. 86
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
In this wrongful death diversity action, the District Court Judge submitted the question of negligence to the jury by a special interrogatory which asked that, if it found negligent design of the "skip hoist," it indicate which of five specific design aspects it had found unsafe. The jury returned a special verdict for petitioner, but answered only one of the five subsections. Respondent's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict was denied, and respondent appealed. The Court of Appeals concluded that respondent's negligence was not established as to the four design aspects that were unanswered, and, holding that the evidence did not support a finding of negligence on the fifth aspect, reversed with instructions to enter judgment for respondent. Petitioner's request for rehearing was denied. Since this Court does not share the Court of Appeals' confidence as to the meaning of the jury's failure to answer four subdivisions of the interrogatory, held, the Court of Appeals erred in directing judgment for respondent, and the case should have been remanded to the Trial Judge, who was in the best position to pass upon the question of a new trial.
Certiorari granted; 340 F.2d 868, vacated in part and remanded.
Petitioner, whose husband was killed while testing the operation of a "skip hoist," brought this diversity action claiming that respondent had negligently designed the hoist. The Trial Judge submitted this question to the jury in the form of a special interrogatory which asked that the jury, if it found negligent design, "please indicate" which of five specified design aspects of the hoist
had been found unsafe. The jury was to answer "Yes" or "No" with respect to each of the five enumerated factors. The jury returned a special verdict for petitioner, answering one of the five subsections of the interrogatory in petitioner's favor and leaving the other four unanswered. The Trial Judge denied respondent's motion for judgment notwithstanding the jury's verdict, and respondent appealed.
The Court of Appeals, in its principal opinion, * concluded that "we must take it that they [the jury] found that Lummus' negligence was not established" as to the four aspects of design covered by the unanswered subsections of the interrogatory. The court then held that the evidence did not support the jury's finding of negligence as to the fifth aspect of design and reversed the trial court's judgment with instructions to enter judgment for respondent. Petitioner sought rehearing in the Court of Appeals, noting her timely objection to the trial court's use of the special interrogatory and arguing that the Court of Appeals had improperly restricted its review of the evidence to the one aspect of design. Rehearing was denied, one judge again dissenting, and this petition for a writ of certiorari followed.
We do not share the Court of Appeals' confidence as to the meaning, in light of the trial court's instructions, of the jury's failure to answer four subdivisions of the interrogatory. Perhaps the jury intended to resolve these questions in respondent's favor, but the jury might have been unable to agree on these issues, or it simply might not have passed upon them because it concluded that
respondent had negligently designed the hoist in another respect. In either of the latter two situations, petitioner would clearly deserve a new trial, at least as to these unresolved issues of negligence. See Union Pac. R. Co. v. Bridal Veil Lumber Co., 219 F.2d 825; 5 Moore, Federal Practice
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