577 F.2d 1009 (5th Cir. 1978), 77-2617, Willard v. The John Hayward

Docket Nº:77-2617
Citation:577 F.2d 1009
Party Name:William B. WILLARD, Sr., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. THE JOHN HAYWARD et al., Defendants-Appellees, XYZ Insurance Company, Defendant.
Case Date:August 07, 1978
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 1009

577 F.2d 1009 (5th Cir. 1978)

William B. WILLARD, Sr., Plaintiff-Appellant,


THE JOHN HAYWARD et al., Defendants-Appellees,

XYZ Insurance Company, Defendant.

No. 77-2617


United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

August 7, 1978

Page 1010

Dan C. Garner, New Orleans, La., for plaintiff-appellant.

Don M. Richard, New Orleans, La., for Ocean Drilling & Exploration.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Before RONEY, GEE and FAY, Circuit Judges.


In this Jones Act, 46 U.S.C.A. § 688, and general maritime seaman's suit, plaintiff alleges he suffered a knee injury due to defendant's negligence. The jury was given five interrogatories in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 49(a). The jury returned its verdict to the court:

Following the reading of the verdict, the jury was polled and discharged. After the jury was discharged, the trial judge read the balance of the interrogatories:

Page 1011

The district court entered judgment for defendant.

Plaintiff appeals on the ground that the jury's answers to the interrogatories were irreconcilably inconsistent. He argues that, on the one hand, the jury found defendant's negligence played no part in producing plaintiff's injury (Interrogatory No. 1 and No. 1(A)). On the other hand, the jury found plaintiff's negligence contributed only 75% to his injuries. There being only two litigious entities capable of negligence, if plaintiff was 75% negligent, then plaintiff argues the defendant must have been 25% negligent in causing the injuries. Thus, he contends, the answer to Interrogatory No. 1(A) is irreconcilably inconsistent with the answer to Interrogatory No. 4.

The law argued by plaintiff is sound. If the jury gives inconsistent answers to special interrogatories, the case must be remanded for a new trial. Morrison v. Frito-Lay, Inc., 546 F.2d 154, 160 (5th Cir. 1977); Miller v. Royal Netherlands Steamship Co., 508 F.2d 1103, 1106 (5th Cir. 1975).

Answers should be considered inconsistent, however, only if there is no way to reconcile them. Atlantic & Gulf Stevedores, Inc. v. Ellerman Lines, Ltd., 369 U.S. 355, 364, 82 S.Ct. 780, 7 L.Ed.2d 798 (1962); Griffin v. Matherne, 471 F.2d 911, 915 (5th Cir. 1973). The test is whether the jury's answers can "be said to represent a logical and probable decision on the relevant issues as submitted." Id.; Miller, supra, 508 F.2d at 1106-110...

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