Inconsistent Verdict – New Trial Order Vacated

Gross v. Dailey, [Ms. SC-2022-1007, June 16, 2023] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2023). The Court (Mendheim, J.; Parker, C.J., and Shaw, Bryan, and Mitchell, JJ., concur) reverses the Conecuh Circuit Court’s order granting plaintiff Christopher Dailey’s motion for new trial in a motor vehicle accident case on the ground of inconsistent verdict. Two jury-verdict forms were signed by the foreperson. One simply stated: “We the jury find for the defendant” and the other stated: “We the jury find for the plaintiff, Christopher D. Dailey, and assess damages of $0 dollars.” Ms. **5-6.

Citing Hall v. Defoor, 273 Ala. 597, 143 So. 2d 449 (1962), the Court holds the verdict was not inconsistent and explains “in Hall, as in this case, the trial court accepted verdict forms finding in favor of the defendants as well as a verdict form that awarded $0 in damages to the plaintiff. Also in Hall, as in this case, the jurors were polled, and they all stated that their intent was to return a verdict in favor of the defendants. See Hall, 273 Ala. at 598, 143 So. 2d at 451. The Hall Court concluded that the verdict stated in open court was in proper form and was not contradictory. The same is true of the verdict in this case.” Ms. *22.

The Court also rejects Dailey’s argument that an affidavit signed by the foreperson was inadmissible under Rule 606(b) of the Alabama Rules of Evidence. The Court explains “[t]he foreperson’s affidavit did not seek to question the announced verdict; rather, it supported that the jury did, in fact, decide the case in Gross’s favor. Therefore, the affidavit was not inadmissible, and it further corroborates the verdict announced in open court in favor of Gross.” Ms. **14-15, citing Alabama Power Co. v. Brooks, 479 So. 2d 1169, 1178 (Ala. 1985) (“Neither testimony nor affidavits of jurors are admissible to impeach their verdicts; however, such evidence is admissible to sustain them.”).

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