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Fourth Department — Jury Verdict: Applebee v. County of Cayuga

Appellate Division, Fourth Department

Jury Verdict

Inconsistent Interrogatory Responses — County Clerk’s Authority

Applebee v. County of Cayuga
CA 11-02090
Appealed from Supreme Court, Cayuga County

Background: The plaintiff commenced an action against the defendant-third-party plaintiff, Cayuga County, when he was injured after the vehicle he was riding hit a bump in the road. The plaintiff argued that the county failed to maintain the road in an adequate condition. The county commenced a third-party action against the village of Port Byron. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, but the county clerk offered a ministerial judgment dismissing the complaint. The county had found that the jury’s interrogatories were inconsistent with the findings at trial.

Ruling: The Appellate Division dismissed the appeal. The court found that the procedure for addressing inconsistent interrogatory responses from a jury is to ask the jury to further consider its answers and verdict, or order a new trial. The county clerk did not have the authority to enter the judgment at issue. Further, the trial court ought to have granted the plaintiff’s motion to vacate the clerk’s judgment because of this lack of authority.

Eugene W. Lane of Greene & Reid for the plaintiff-appellant; Christine Gasser of Syracuse, Congdon, Flaherty, O’Callaghan, Reid, Donlon, Travis & Fischlinger for the defendant-respondent; Thomas F. O’Mara of Davidson & O’Mara for the third-party defendant-respondent