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FERRANTE v. METRO-NORTH COMMUTER R.R.

May 15, 1990

DOMINICK FERRANTE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
METRO-NORTH COMMUTER RAILROAD, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tenney, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This case involves a claim brought by plaintiff under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"). Plaintiff was injured in a fall after being ordered into a smoky tunnel to investigate damage to signal equipment from a track fire. Defendant denied liability and raised the affirmative defense of contributory negligence. On May 8, 1990, after a one-week trial, a jury rendered a verdict in favor of plaintiff. Questions subsequently arose about a possible mistake in interpretation about what the jury intended to award. Therefore, the court stayed entry of judgment pending further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

With the exception of the issues surrounding the verdict, this case was unremarkable. The jury had been supplied with a special verdict form that is commonly used in FELA cases. The first question asked the jury to indicate whether defendant had been negligent. The second asked it to decide whether that negligence played any part in causing plaintiff's injury. The third asked it to determine whether any negligence by plaintiff contributed to his injury. The jury answered each of these questions in the affirmative.

The fourth question required the jury to specify the relative percentages of negligence of the plaintiff and defendant. In the fifth question, the jury was asked to determine the damages sustained by the plaintiff. These two questions appeared on the verdict form as follows:

  4) What were the relative percentages of fault
      of the plaintiff and defendant? (Your total
      must equal 100%.)
                              Plaintiff    ____%
                             Defendant    ____%
                              ==================
                              Total        100%

Go on to Question 5.

  5) How much, if any, is plaintiff entitled to
    recover for:
    a) Past lost income?
                                          $____
    b) Future lost income?
      (Discounted to present value)
                                         $____
    c) Past pain and suffering?
                                         $____
    d) Future pain and suffering?
                                         $____
              ==================================
              TOTAL DAMAGES:          $________

(In computing these figures, do not reduce the award to reflect any negligence on the part of the plaintiff. This reduction will be made by the court based upon any percentages entered in Question 4.)

Foreperson, please sign this verdict form and report to the court.

                             ________________
                                Foreperson

The jury answered question four by indicating that plaintiff had been forty percent negligent, and defendant sixty percent negligent. It did not answer all the subparts in question five, however. Instead of indicating any breakdown of the categories of damages, the jury left these entries blank. It ...


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