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Cain v. Sadler

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

May 9, 2014

STEVEN V. CAIN, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID C. SADLER, Defendant. v.

Submitted: April 28, 2014

Upon Plaintiff's Motion for a New Trial, or, Alternatively, Additur. Granted in Part; Denied in Part.

William D. Fletcher, Jr., Esquire of Schmittinger & Rodriguez, P.A., Dover, Delaware; attorney for Plaintiff.

Brain T. McNelis, Esquire of Young & McNelis, Dover, Delaware; attorney for Defendant.

ORDER

WILLIAM L. WITHAM, JR. RESIDENT JUDGE.

Before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for a new trial, which Plaintiff seeks solely as to the issue of damages. In the alternative, Plaintiff seeks additur. Defendant does not oppose a new trial on both liability and damages, but does oppose a new trial strictly on the issue of damages and also opposes Plaintiff's alternative motion for additur. The Court has carefully considered the parties' submissions and the applicable legal authority. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and a new trial is ordered on both liability and damages.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Steven V. Cain (hereinafter "Plaintiff") seeks to recover damages from Defendant David C. Sadler (hereinafter "Defendant") for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle collision that occurred on March 21, 2008. This matter proceeded to a jury trial on March 24, 2014. Liability and damages were both contested issues.

This Court issued a jury instruction on comparative negligence, which stated in pertinent part:

Under Delaware law, a plaintiff's contributory negligence doesn't mean that the plaintiff can't recover damages from the defendant as long as the plaintiff's negligence was no greater than the defendant's negligence. Instead of preventing recovery, Delaware law reduces the plaintiff's recovery in proportion to the plaintiff's negligence. . . .If you find that Steven Cain's negligence is no more than half the total negligence, I will reduce the total amount of Steven Cain's damages by the percentage of his contributory negligence. If you find that Steven Cain's negligence is more than half the total negligence, Steven Cain may not recover any damages. The Court issued to the jury a special verdict form which the jury was instructed to use for assigning percentages to the respective negligence of Plaintiff and Defendant, if any. The verdict form included the following:
(If the percentage of negligence you attributed to Plaintiff Cain is 50% or less then go to Question No. 4. If the percentage of negligence you attributed to Plaintiff Cain is greater than 50%, go no further and please summon the Bailiff.)
4. State the amount of compensation you award Steven Cain for his injuries and damages, proximately caused by the motor vehicle accident of March 21, 2008. Do not reduce your award by the amount of negligence you attributed to Plaintiff Steven Cain, if any. The Court will calculate the reduction if it applies.

The jury reached a verdict on March 28, 2014. The Court Clerk, reading from the special verdict form completed by the jury, engaged in the following exchange with the Jury Forelady:

THE CLERK: Do you find that defendant, David C. Sadler, was negligent in a manner proximately causing injury to ...

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