car accidents and juries


As a last salvo before I fly away, the SJC decided a case that basically puts the nail in the coffin of appeals on behalf of plaintiffs in car accident cases based on insufficient evidence to support the defense verdict.  Ma v. Bryan, 2010 ME 55.

While this principle is basically intuitive (the plaintiff has the burden of proof, the jury doesn't have to believe anybody's testimony etc.) and decisions have made these points in the past, this decison pulls all the relevant concepts together and goes on longer than it would need to just reject this particular appeal (indeed, this could have been a mem dec.)  Hence, I believe that the SJC is making a point here – don't do this – and if you do so in the future, you may being acting at your peril sanction-wise.

So if you are representing a plaintiff in a negligence case like this, and the jury inexplicably finds against you, even though all the evidence on your side is uncontroverted, I believe the appropriate legal jargon for this situation is "tough noogies."  In the absence of any legal error or concrete evidence of jury misconduct (and this decision sends the signal that the court won't be inquiring into jury deliberations except in "very limited circumstances," with a need for 'verifiable external manifestations" of impropriety), there is no relief on appeal.  The jury system will have individual winners and losers, but we've chosen it as the best general approach.  Life is sometimes just unfair.