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Jarvis v. Ford Motor Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
283 F.3d 33 (2d Cir. 2002)


Jarvis (plaintiff) sued Ford Motor Co. (Ford) (defendant) for a minivan design defect under theories of negligence and strict liability. The parties proposed jury instructions to the district court before trial, requesting the judge instruct the jury on negligence and strict products liability. The judge sent the parties a letter asking for clarification and pointing out a footnote in Pahuta v. Massey-Ferguson, Inc., 170 F.3d 125 (2d Cir. 1999), where a plaintiff withdrew a negligence claim as “duplicative of his strict liability claim.” The judge mentioned the “substantial overlap in the elements” of both causes of action. Jarvis maintained that instructions should be given on both theories. Ford replied by letter that it believed instructions should be given on only one theory, not both. However, at the pretrial conference, Ford’s attorney told the court it wanted the negligence instruction left in “for now.” Ford did not object to the instruction, and the jury was charged that it could find Ford liable for negligence, strict liability, or both. The jury returned a verdict finding Ford liable for negligence but not strict liability. Ford moved for post-judgment relief, asserting that the verdicts were inconsistent. The district court granted Ford’s motion for judgment as a matter of law (JNOV), concluding that Ford did not waive its objection to the jury instruction as it was preserved in its letter to the court. Jarvis appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Sotomayor, J.)

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