Court of Appeals reverses lower court's conlusion that sympathy resulted in unwarranted verdict for defendant
The Plaintiff, Eldec Induction, USA, Inc., sued Knopf International, Inc., after Eldec's owner's two motor vehicles were severely damaged in transit to Germany. The older vehicles were "packaged" for transit by Knopf's local employee, Warren. Warren testified that he never investigated the strength of straps or lumber that he used to "guard" the vehicles, but that he had used the same process to protect vehicles, even heavy, older vehicles, for years. The Plaintiff proved that the straps were rated for substantially lighter loads (only 533 pounds), that the straps were partially torn, that the lumber used to brace the cars inside their shipping container was inadequate--and had failed--and that the container itself was undamaged on the outside.
The case went to a jury on a negligence theory. The jury concluded that Warren was not negligent (meaning that neither his employer nor the employer's [un-named] insurer would have to pay for the damage). The plaintiff asked the trial judge to overturn the verdict, arguing that it was "against the great weight of the evidence." The Judge concluded that the jury's decision was tainted by sympathy for Warren, who apparently displayed unusual "nervous tendencies." It ruled that the verdict was "preposterous" and granted a new trial.
The Court of Appeals, in a typical Christopher Murray opinion, overturned the lower court's decision and substituted its own view of the trial . The Court of Appeals held that the judge had impermissibly invaded the province of the jury and picked through the evidence in an attempt to justify the verdict. It returned the case to the lower court to tax costs against the plaintiff.