Law School Case Brief
Tatman v. Cordingly - 672 P.2d 1286 (Wyo. 1983)
The standard of review the Supreme Court of Wyoming has repeatedly used in determining if the evidence is sufficient to support the verdict is that the trier of facts is the sole judge of the weight to be given to all testimony, and the matter of determining where the preponderance of the evidence lies is within the sound discretion of the trier of facts. When reviewing cases on appeal, the supreme court is compelled to accept the evidence of the prevailing party as true, leaving out of consideration entirely the evidence of the unsuccessful party that conflicts with it, and giving to the evidence of the successful party every favorable inference which may reasonably and fairly be drawn from it.
A dispute arose between plaintiff E. Ben Tatman defendant Gary L. Cordingly. Tatman was 66 years old at the time of the incident; Cordingly was in his early 20's. As a result of the fight, Tatman was hospitalized for eight days and incurred substantial medical expenses. Tatman filed a lawsuit against Cordingly in Wyoming state court alleging assault and battery. At trial, both parties contend that the other was the aggressor. Judgment was entered pursuant to a jury verdict finding that Cordingly acted out of self-defense. Tatman appealed the judgment on the grounds of faulty jury instructions and lack of sufficient evidence to support the verdict.
Was the judgment proper?
The state supreme court affirmed the judgment. It held that the jury in an assault and battery case was entitled to believe Cordingly's testimony in support of his claim of self-defense, as there was evidence Tatman had a bad temper, carried a gun and used it often, ran over Cordingly's motorcycle with his truck, struck Cordingly first, and was repeatedly trying to get his rifle, causing Cordingly to fear for his life. The court ruled that the trial court did not err in refusing to give a jury instruction that misstated the law. Although Tatman's third requested instruction was an accurate statement of the law, the trial court was not required to give the instruction because others given adequately covered the issue of self-defense and where the privilege ended. Lastly, the court noted that an incomplete instruction was not reversible error, as the instructions given provided a true and accurate representation of the law and Tatman failed to show prejudice.
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