Comparative and Contributory Negligence

7.32 – Comparative Negligence: Interrogatories

7.32 Comparative Negligence: Interrogatories

  1. Explanation of Interrogatories
    I have just described to you the various concepts with which you are going to have to deal in deciding the present case. To assist you in reaching a verdict you will have with you in the jury room a form consisting of questions calling for certain answers. Your duty will be discharged by answering such of these questions as under the evidence and the court’s instructions it becomes necessary to answer in order to arrive at a complete verdict.Question #1 deals with plaintiff’s allegations as to defendant’s negligence. In order to answer this question you are going to have to decide whether the plaintiff has sustained his/her burden of proof with respect to defendant’s negligence. I am going to read to you question #1; it reads:

    Was defendant, ______________, negligent?

    Yes __________
    No __________

    If you conclude that plaintiff has failed to sustain the burden of proving defendant’s negligence, the answer to question #1 would be “No”; you would check the appropriate answer and then you have no need to answer further questions but you would return your verdict at this point. If, however, on the other hand, you conclude that plaintiff has proven defendant’s negligence, you will answer question #1 “Yes” and proceed to answer question #2.

    Question #2 deals with plaintiff’s allegations that defendant’s negligent conduct was a proximate cause of the accident (injuries) to plaintiff. Question #2 reads as follows:

    Was the negligence of defendant, ___________________, a proximate cause of the accident?

    Yes __________
    No __________

    If you find the plaintiff has failed to prove that the negligent conduct of the defendant was a proximate cause of the accident, then you will answer question #2 “No” and check the appropriate answer on the form. If that should be your answer to question #2, you would not need to answer further questions but would return the verdict at this point. However, if you conclude that the plaintiff has met the burden of proving that defendant’s negligent conduct was a proximate cause of this accident, then you will answer question #2 “Yes”, check the appropriate answer, and proceed to deal with question #3.

    Question #3 deals with defendant’s allegation that plaintiff was negligent. Question #3 reads as follows:

    Was plaintiff negligent?

    Yes __________
    No __________

    If you find the defendant has failed to meet its burden of proving plaintiff’s negligence, you will answer question #3 “No”, check the appropriate answer to question #3, and then pass directly on to the damage question, question #6, which is described on the form as a “damage question”. If, on the other hand, you find the defendant has proven the plaintiff was negligent, you will answer question #3 “Yes” and go on to deal with question #4.

    Question #4 deals with defendant’s allegations that plaintiff’s negligence was a proximate cause of the accident. Question #4 reads as follows:

    Was plaintiff’s negligence a proximate cause of the accident?

    Yes __________
    No __________

    If you find that the defendant has met its burden of proving that the plaintiff’s negligence was a proximate cause of this accident, then you will answer question #4 “Yes”, check the appropriate answer on the form and return your verdict at this point. However, if you find, on the other hand, that defendant has failed to prove plaintiff’s negligent conduct was a proximate cause of the accident, then you will answer question #4 “No” and go on to answer question #6, which is the question requiring evaluation of damages.

    After you have answered those questions these instructions have required you to answer, examine your answers. If you find that the answers to all four questions are “Yes”, then you will have to answer question #5. In other words, if you find from your answers that you have concluded that both the defendant and the plaintiff were negligent and that their respective negligent conduct was a proximate cause of the accident, then you are going to have another task to perform and another question to answer – question #5. You are going to have to evaluate the conduct of both the plaintiff and the defendant with a view to determining the degree of fault attributable to each with respect to this accident, and express that degree of fault in terms of a percentage figure — taking the combined fault of all parties to this lawsuit as being 100%.

    In other words, you shall assume that the negligence of all parties to this lawsuit is taken to be 100%; then determine what percentage of that total amount of negligence is to be attributable to defendant and what percentage of that total negligence is to be attributable to the plaintiff. Your answer will be expressed in percentage terms and the total of all percentages which you assign to each party must add up to 100%.

    Thus, I will now read to you question #5. You will note that it recites the instructions that I have just given you in oral form. Question #5 reads as follows:

    If you find that you have answered all the previous four questions “Yes”, i.e., you have found that both the plaintiff and the defendant were negligent and that their respective negligent conduct proximately caused the accident, then you must answer this question — taking the combined negligence of all parties to this lawsuit which proximately contributed to the happening of this accident as being 100% — what percentage of such total negligence is attributable to:

    a. Defendant _______________ Answer _______%
    b. Plaintiff _______________ Answer _______%

    TOTAL 100 %

    If you have determined that the defendant was solely negligent or that both plaintiff and defendant were negligent, it then becomes your duty to determine the amount of money which would reasonably compensate plaintiff for the injuries proximately caused by the accident in question. For that reason, I am going to give you instructions with respect to the measure of damages in a case such as the present one, for your guidance, in the event you need to consider this question.

    After having considered the evidence in this case bearing on plaintiff’s injuries and their consequences, you will determine what amount of money would fairly and reasonably compensate plaintiff for his/her injuries and losses proximately resulting from the accident in accordance with the law as just given you and state the dollar amount of your conclusion in answer to question #6 which, you will note, requires a lump sum dollar amount. The evaluation of plaintiff’s injuries and damages in money terms should be made irrespective of which party is at fault or to what degree, or who is ultimately to pay any damages that may be assessed. Here, you, members of the jury, are only concerned with evaluating plaintiff’s injuries and damages without regard to whose fault proximately caused them. Question #6 reads as follows:

    What amount of money would reasonably and fairly compensate the plaintiff for his/her injuries and losses? $______________

 

Interrogatories
As to Liability

  1. Was defendant, ___________________, negligent? Yes ____ No ____
  2. Was the negligence of defendant, __________________, a proximate cause of the accident? Yes ____ No ____
  3. Was plaintiff negligent? Yes ____ No ____
  4. Was plaintiff’s negligence a proximate cause of the accident? Yes ____ No ____
  5. If you find that you have answered all the previous four questions Yes, i.e., you have found that both the plaintiff and the defendant were negligent and that their respective negligent conduct proximately caused the accident, then you must answer this question — taking the combined negligence of all parties to this lawsuit which proximately contributed to the happening of this accident as being 100% — what percentage of such total negligence is attributable to:
    a. Defendant ________________ Answer _______%
    b. Plaintiff ________________ Answer _______%
    TOTAL 100 %
    As to Damages
  6. What amount of money would reasonably and fairly compensate the plaintiff for his/her injuries and losses? $ ______________


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