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Florida Supreme Court Disapproves “Fundamental Nature” Exception to Requirement for Immediate Objection to an Inconsistent Jury Verdict in a Product Liability Case

Ladders for siding work

Most lawsuits settle out of court. There are many reasons for this, but one of the main incentives for a settlement is so that the parties can put the matter behind them and move on with their lives. It’s no secret that jury trials can lead to appeals and that appeals can delay a resolution to the issues for months or maybe even years.

In the case of Coba v. Tricam Industries, Inc., the state’s highest court was called upon to determine whether a trial court and an intermediate appellate court had properly addressed a jury’s allegedly inconsistent verdict in a product liability lawsuit brought by the personal representative of a man who fell to his death from a 13-foot aluminum ladder. The woman’s complaint against the defendants, the manufacturer and seller of the ladder, alleged both strict product liability and negligence.

The Issue Presented to the Supreme Court of Florida

Whether the general rule concerning the necessity of an objection to an inconsistent verdict prior to the jury being discharged applied in a product liability case in which the jury found that the defendant was negligent in designing a product but that the product had no design defect? The Third District Court of Appeal had applied the “fundamental nature” exception previously recognized by both the Fourth and Fifth District Courts of Appeals in other cases.

The Court’s Decision

Generally, a party who seeks relief from an inconsistent verdict must file an immediate objection so that the jury, rather than the appellate court, can correct the verdict. Although the intermediate appellate courtd had carved out an exception to the general rule in certain product liability cases, the Supreme Court of Florida did not approve of such an exception. The court therefore quashed the Third District’s decision applying the exception to this case and remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to enter judgment for the manufacturer.

In reaffirming the requirement of an immediate objection to an inconsistent verdict, the court stated that it aimed to serve several policy concerns, including discouraging gamesmanship, enhancing the efficiency of judicial proceedings, and promoting the sanctity of a jury’s verdict by permitting juries to correct a clearly erroneous verdict that may have resulted from confusion caused by the court or the instructions to the jury.

For a Free Evaluation of Your Potential Product Liability Case

The South Florida accident lawyers of Cohn & Smith have handled many product liability cases over the years in Fort Lauderdale, Davie, North Dade County, and elsewhere in Florida, and we will be glad to schedule an appointment to discuss your case. Call us at 954-431-8100. If you have been hurt or lost a family member due to a defective or dangerous product, please do not delay in seeking legal action. The state of Florida imposes both a statute of limitations and a statute of repose in such cases. Both limit the time that an injured person has to file suit against a negligent manufacturer, distributor, or seller of an unsafe product.

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