• Objection to Jury’s Verdict Premised on Trial Errors, Correctible before the Jury is Discharged, Must be Raised before the Jury is Discharged.
  • December 4, 2018 | Author: James Franklin Swartz
  • Law Firm: Thomas, Thomas & Hafer LLP - Allentown Office
  • Background

    In this premises liability case, Plaintiff sustained gunshot wounds at a convenience store during an altercation between a customer and an employee, resulting in, inter alia, a loss of six weeks of work for a past lost wage claim of approximately $3,000. At trial, the jury heard evidence of past wage loss, but no evidence of future wage loss. Plaintiff’s counsel’s closing argument acknowledged that there was no claim for future wage loss. The Trial Court instructed the jury to award damages in a single lump-sum for damages sustained in the past as well as damages he would sustain in the future, without any instruction on lost wages. The verdict slip was agreed upon by the parties and included five categories of damages awardable, including “wage loss.” The jury returned a verdict which itemized the damages assessed for each category, including an award of future wage loss in the amount of $1,300,000.

    Defendant failed to object to the verdict at trial but, instead, filed Post-trial motions challenging the weight of the evidence. The Trial Court denied the motion, opining that objection to the jury’s calculation of the general verdict had been waived by not raising the objection before the jury was discharged. On appeal, the Superior Court disagreed holding that a party does not have to raise a challenge to the weight of the evidence before the jury is discharged.

    Holding

    The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the jury’s verdict, holding that Defendant had waived its challenge to the verdict by failing to raise a contemporaneous objection to a trial error which could have been corrected before the jury was discharged. It reasoned that Defendant’s challenge was not to the weight of the evidence, but to the jury’s ability to award damages for future lost wages despite the lack of evidence or instruction on that measure of damages. It noted that Defendant had a basis to object because the verdict did not conform to the Trial Court’s instruction to return a single lump-sum and because the jury awarded damages for which the Plaintiff was not entitled as a matter of law. Had Defendant objected before the jury was discharged, the Trial Court could have required the jury to clarify the award.