Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, Jan. T., 1965, No. 65, in case of Franklin G. Beyrand et al. v. Clifford Kelly et al.
David L. Robinson, with him Robinson, Fisher & Long, for appellants.
Robert M. Stefanon and James R. Kelley, for appellees.
Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Eagen took no part in the consideration or decision of this case. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen.
Appellant Mayers Developers' truck, while driven by appellant Kelly, collided with a car operated by appellee Franklin Beyrand, in which appellee Theresa Beyrand was riding. Franklin and Theresa subsequently filed suit against Kelly and Mayers, Franklin for personal injuries and Theresa for property damage. Appellants then joined Franklin as an additional defendant in the suit by Theresa, and Mayers counterclaimed against Franklin for property damage. The
jury reached a verdict in favor of Theresa against all defendants, and decided that none of the defendants were entitled to any recovery. The court below then granted the new trial motion of Franklin and Theresa, and appellants took this appeal.
The court below believed that a new trial was necessary because "the dialogue between the jurors and the Trial Judge. . . . manifested such confusion by the jury of the basic issues so as to require the grant of a new trial in the interests of justice." The court gave no more specific reasons, merely referring to that part of the record which contained questions which the jury presented to the trial judge after the jury had initially retired to deliberate.
Although there is some indication in the record that the jury was not altogether clear as to what verdicts to reach after it had made its basic findings of negligence, the ultimate verdict reached here is not only consistent with, but is compelled by, the special findings made by the jury. The jury, in answer to specific questions, found that Kelly and Franklin Beyrand were both negligent and contributing causes of the accident, and further found that they were jointly negligent and that their joint negligence caused the accident. Under these findings, no verdict could be proper other than one in which all defendants would be liable to Theresa Beyrand, with no recovery by the defendants inter se.
The jury, after some preliminary questioning as to how to deal with the verdict slips, voted unanimously that appellants Kelly and Mayers should pay for the property damage of Theresa Beyrand, with ten of the twelve jurors believing that Franklin Beyrand should also be liable. After retiring for further consideration, the jury decided that Franklin Beyrand was also liable. The jurors' responses to the court's questions during
a jury poll of the 10-2 verdict indicate that the jury basically understood the situation. The foreman, for example, stated that "since we found them both at fault, we felt they should share the expense equally," which in layman's terms is an accurate explanation for the verdict that was ultimately reached. Perhaps the jury was not ...