December 01, 2014 Articles

What Do You Do with an Inconsistent Jury Verdict?

Don't get caught flatfooted after a trial is over.

By Sanket J. Bulsara, Chris Casamassima, and Laura Schwalbe

The announcement of a jury verdict is the culmination of months—or more often, years—of hard work. In almost any case, and particularly in cases with complex issues, claims, or multiple parties, there is the potential that the jury may give an inconsistent verdict. Indeed, a basic search for cases involving “inconsistent jury verdict” in Westlaw or LexisNexis results in hundreds of reported federal cases raising the issue. But what to do with a verdict that you cannot reconcile? You may think you should leave the matter for the court and make an oral or written motion for a new trial. After all, as soon as the verdict is announced, within minutes the jury is discharged, and the posttrial phase begins.

But if you wait until the jury is on its way home, you may have waited too long and waived your right to challenge the verdict. In most jurisdictions, and with most jury verdicts, you have to object to the inconsistent verdict; and in some jurisdictions, you waive your challenge unless in addition to objecting, you explicitly ask the court to resubmit the case to the jury to resolve the inconsistency. 

This article provides some tips to make sure you are not caught flat-footed when the jury returns with an inconsistent verdict.

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