Courts sustain coversion judgment by advisory jury against cohabiting partner
James Hastings sued Jennifer Scelzo, with whom he had cohabited, alleging that Scelzo breached a contract between them, misappropriated real estate in some fashion, and converted a gun collection worth nearly $100,000.00. The jury found in Hastings' favor, the judge agreed with the verdict and entered a judgment, and Scelzo appealed. She argued that the instructions to the jury were inadequate because they did not itemized the gun collection.
The Court noted that a jury instruction need not summarize the evidence with particularity and need only adequately present the theories of the parties and the applicable law. They must be consistent with substantial justice. The Appellate court pointed out that Scelzo was found by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Illinois with a substantial portion of the plaintiff's collection. The serial numbers were then reviewed and an itemized summary of the inventory was introduced into evidence with an assigned "conservative" value. Under the circumstances, Scelzo had no basis to complain about the instructions, the advisory jury outcome or the Court's judgment.