Where a verdict is uncertain or ambiguous, it cannot be molded. An appellate court will not substitute its verdict in place thereof.
A administrator filed a case against a corporation and an individual, claiming they were guilty of negligence that resulted in the decedent's death. In turn, the defendants asserted the decedent was contributorily negligent. The jury returned a verdict and determined that each of the parties was negligent. The jury also awarded the administrator $2,000 in damages. Both parties were dissatisfied with the verdict. The administrator appealed to set aside the verdict upon the ground that it was ambiguous, inconsistent, inadequate, and contrary to the charge of the trial court. The defendants filed a motion to mold the verdict into one in favor of defendants and against the administrator in the administrator's negligence action.
Was the decision of the trial court proper?
The court denied defendants' motion to mold and made the administrator's rule absolute. A new trial was also granted. In making the administrator's rule absolute, the court reasoned that the verdict was contradictory, inconsistent, and ambiguous. The verdict found both parties guilty of negligence and erroneously compared the degrees of their negligence. The monetary award could not be treated as surplusage and disregarded. The court awarded a new trial. The court denied the motion to mold and reasoned that where the verdict was uncertain and ambiguous, the verdict could not be molded. The court was unwilling to substitute its verdict in place thereof.