The defendant is entitled to a new trial where the jury verdict is inconsistent. Fritz v. White Consolidated Industries, N.Y. Sup. Ct. App. Div., 4th Dept., June 14, 2003.
The plaintiff suffered property damage to her retail business after a fire that allegedly started in a dehumidifier manufactured by the defendant. After trial, the only issues that went to the jury were those of strict product liability and breach of implied warranty. With regard to the issue of strict product liability, the jury rendered a verdict that the dehumidifier was defective when it left the control of the defendant. With regard to the breach of implied warranty claim, the jury found in favor of the defendant in that the dehumidifier was fit to be used for its ordinary purposes. The defendant objected to the verdict because it was inconsistent. The trial court attempted to correct the inconsistency by asking the jury if the dehumidifier was fit to be used for ordinary purposes on the date of the fire. The defendant objected to the alternate question and moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or in the alternative, a new trial. The defendant’s motion was denied and the defendant appealed. The appellate court held that a new trial was necessary because of the inconsistency in the jury verdict. It further noted that it was improper of the trial court to cure the inconsistency by altering the question posed to the jury because the alternate question was not the standard under which a breach of implied warranty claim was to be considered.
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