The jury knows & ave atque vale Justice Crowley


Last week the SJC confirmed a point upon which I have blogged previously – when you have the burden of proof and the jury finds against you, that's not a legal error on appeal — that's life.  Reardon v. Larkin, 2010 ME 86 [].

This was a car accident in which the defendants, UPS and its driver, admitted liability and the issue was damages.  The jury awarded none and the plaintiff appealed, seeking an additur of $600,000.

As the Court noted, the plaintiff still had the burden of proving the extent of the damages proximately caused by the accident, and on appeal, to prevail, would have to show that, on this record, the jury was compelled to find that he proved the elements of causation and damages.  Even if evidence is uncontroverted, that doesn't mean the jury has to believe it. 

There were a few facts that came out that probably didn't help the plaintiff's cause.   For example, since the accident, the plaintiff has scuba dived, bowled, "perform[ed] doughnuts and wheelies on an all-terrain vehicie" and "help[ed] catch alligators in Florida."  Also, while I'm not a trial lawyer, I'm thinking that it probably isn't a great thing for your case when the evidence shows that, shortly after the accident, your plaintiff client tells a friend that a UPS driver hit him and he "now had UPS by the balls."  On several occasions, the plaintiff also "reported that he must refrain from carrying things because 'UPS might be watching.'"  The plaintiff also asked his doctor to change his medical records in light of his litigation.  The jury, apparently, took note.   

On a completely different subject, Superior Justice Robert Crowley is retiring this week.  I had a few notable cases in front of him, and although he didn't always rule in my favor, I always appreciated him as a judge, not only because he was a nice person, but because he wasn't afraid to make decisions, and he would drill into the law when he needed to.  The bench will be diminished by his exit.