Court overturns jury verdict involving unleashed dog after jury verdict form error is discovered
The Court of Appeals voted unanimously to overturn a jury verdict against Charles Pease, after Pease sued Roger Riley to collect compensation for injuries Pease suffered. Pease alleged that he suffered serious injuries when Riley's unleashed dog ran into his motorcycle. Under MCL 287.262, dog owners are required to keep loose dogs on a leash, and they can be held responsible if a dog running loose causes another person injuries. Unfortunately, at the conclusion of the trial, the defendants submitted a jury verdict form which required that the loose dog be the SOLE CAUSE of the injuries. Under the law, the victim can collect from the at-fault party if the latter's negligence is A "significant contributing factor" in causing the injury--even if other factors played a role.
Noting that the form contradicted the Judge's (appropriate) instructions regarding multiple causes, and that the form had not been approved by the victim's attorney, the Court of Appeals panel was obligated to send the case back for a new trial. There being no evidence that the defense attorney intentionally submitted an erroneous form, or that the victim's attorney knowingly allowed the erroneous form to be used, a form that very reasonably may have mis-led the jurors was grounds for overturning their verdict.