Having deliberated for some time the jury presented the following question to the Court:
'As a result of your charge to the jury may we come out with a verdict for the plaintiff with no dollar award because the maintenance would about equal the total earnings?'
The Court answered that if the jury determined that the cost of maintenance would equal earnings, the plaintiff had not met his burden of persuasion on the damage issue, and the verdict should be in defendant's favor. If, however, any surplus was arrived at the plaintiff was entitled to a verdict in that amount. Having again retired, the jury later returned with yet another question:
'May we give to the plaintiff and only award One Dollar as damages?'
To this the Court replied that any amount the jury felt justified by the evidence was permissible, 'even One Dollar'. The jury then returned with a verdict of $ 1 in favor of plaintiff.
The jury had the opportunity of hearing and seeing the mother of the deceased, who at the time of the accident and at the time of the trial was living separate and apart from her husband. The jury had further opportunity of seeing pictures of the deceased and information concerning his activities over a period of years prior to his death.
It has been the practice of the Court on the question of damages, when the verdict is for the plaintiff in a large amount, not to interfere with the jury's determination of damages, unless so clearly excessive as to shock the conscience of the Court. The converse should also be true. Plaintiff's evidence in this case was not so convincing that the jury's determination appears irrational or the product of prejudice, caprice, or whimsy. A verdict which is not so far out of harmony with the evidence produced as to make the result shocking should not be disturbed. The importance of preserving to the jury those functions properly assigned it precludes overturning a verdict rendered after mature deliberation because of disagreement on the part of the Court with the result.
It is the opinion of the Court that the case was fully and thoroughly tried; that the plaintiff was not prejudiced by the eliciting of the evidence complained of from Thompkins; that the result was the jury's honest determination on the question of damages, and hence the verdict will not be disturbed.
An appropriate order will be entered denying defendant's motion for judgment in its favor and also denying plaintiff's motion for a new trial.
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