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Lavoie v. Pacific Press & Shear Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
975 F.2d 48 (2d Cir. 1992)


Lavoie (plaintiff) was injured by allegedly defective equipment manufactured by Pacific Press & Shear Co. (Pacific) (defendant). Lavoie sued in federal court, alleging breach of the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, strict products liability, and negligence. The district judge noted during a bench conference that there were potential inconsistencies between Lavoie’s theories of recovery. The parties saw the jury instruction at a pre-charge conference, and counsel saw the verdict forms submitted to the jury beforehand. There were two sets of forms: the first said “Special Verdict” and contained a series of questions about each theory, and the second said “Verdicts” and asked if Pacific was liable to Lavoie under each theory. The jury found that Pacific was not liable for breach of warranty or strict liability, but concluded both parties were negligent. The jury assessed Pacific’s negligence at 85 percent and awarded $412,250 in damages. The jurors were polled, and the judge held a bench conference. Pacific moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or a new trial on the basis of insufficient evidence, an intervening cause, and jury sympathy. At no point before, during, or after trial did Pacific object to the verdict forms. The district court denied Pacific’s motions. Pacific appealed, asserting for the first time that the verdicts were irreconcilably inconsistent, because a finding of no strict liability or breach of warranty precluded a finding of negligence.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Cardamone, J.)

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