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A poorly drafted verdict form failed to sink a Maryland jury’s $423,000 verdict in favor of former World Yachting Champion Rolland “Rolly” Tasker’s sail-making company. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals on Jan. 29 held that the trial court’s supplemental verdict form cured any defect in the original. Bacon & Assocs. Inc. v. Rolly Tasker Sails (Thailand) Co. Ltd., No. 0067. A legendary name in the world of yachting, Tasker-who is Australian- competed in the 1956 Olympic Games in a sailboat that he built by hand, won a World Yachting Championship and was elected to the Australian Sports Hall of Fame. In 1956, he started his Australian sail-making company, Rolly Tasker Sails Pty. Ltd (RTS). Over the past half-century, as Rolly Tasker Sails became one of the most recognized sail-makers in the world, the business changed corporate identities and moved from Australia to Hong Kong to Thailand. In 1971, Bacon & Assocs. in Annapolis, Md., began selling Tasker sails on consignment. Over three decades, Bacon has received sails from Tasker at each of the company’s three locations. In 2001, Tasker-Thailand sued Bacon & Assoc., alleging that Bacon had failed to pay for sails it sold. Although a jury rejected fraud allegations against Bacon, it found for Tasker on breach of contract and conversion claims and awarded $423,987 in damages. The original verdict form included a question about which Tasker corporate entity had sustained damages. Because of ambiguous wording, the trial judge prepared a supplemental form aimed at clarifying the jury’s intent to award damages to Tasker-Thailand for damages sustained by Tasker-Hong Kong and Tasker-Australia. Upon receiving the supplemental form, the jury deliberated for 10 more minutes and found no damages for either Tasker-Australia or Tasker-Hong Kong. Nevertheless, it awarded the same total damages from the first form, $423,987, to Tasker-Thailand. Bacon appealed, arguing, in part, that the judgment in favor of Tasker-Thailand should be reversed because of the first form’s ambiguity. Rejecting that argument and affirming the judgment, Maryland’s intermediate appellate court said, “When these verdict sheets are read together, it is clear that the jury’s intent was that RTS Thailand be permitted to recover on the appellants’ obligations resulting from the Tasker entities’ entire thirty-year relationship with Bacon and Mrs. Bacon. The verdicts are not inconsistent, much less irreconcilably so.” Fraud accusations aside, the litigants may still be sailing together. The Rolly Tasker Web site still lists Dixie Bacon and Bacon & Assoc. among its list of “fine dealers.”

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