Two-Minute MBE Question: Civil Procedure (jury verdicts)
Here, we discuss how to approach the following Civil Procedure MBE question in two minutes. Read the question below then check out the YouYube video below for an answer explanation in less than two minutes!
Civil Procedure Question:
A pedestrian sued a bus driver in federal court in State A for $100,000 for personal injuries that he suffered when the bus driver allegedly ran into him while he was in a crosswalk. The pedestrian made a timely request for a jury trial, which the federal court granted. After the pedestrian and the bus driver had each presented their cases, the jury reached a general verdict finding for the pedestrian. Prior to discharging the jury, the court decided to poll the jurors and asked the jurors to respond “Yes, this is my verdict” or “No, this is not my verdict.” During the course of the polling, three of the twelve jurors stated: “No, this is not my verdict.” Because of the lack of unanimity amongst the jurors, the court ordered a new trial.
Did the court err in ordering a new trial?
(A) No, because the court has the authority to order a new trial if the polling indicates that the jury verdict was not unanimous.
(B) No, because the court may undertake any reasonable action to ensure that the verdict is unanimous.
(C) Yes, because the court’s only option is to ask the jurors to engage in further deliberation.
(D) Yes, because a unanimous verdict is not required; only a majority of the jurors need to be in agreement.
Civil Procedure Video Answer Explanation:
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You can find the answer to the Civil Procedure MBE question in the video above or the text below. Just click “SHOW ANSWER”
(A) is the correct answer. FRCP 48(c) provides: “After a verdict is returned but before the jury is discharged, the court must on a party’s request, or may on its own, poll the jurors individually. If the poll reveals a lack of unanimity or lack of assent by the number of jurors that the parties stipulated to, the court may direct the jury to deliberate further or may order a new trial.” Here, the court chose to poll the jurors after they had reached the verdict in favor of the plaintiff but prior to discharging them. Because three of the jurors stated that it was not their verdict that the plaintiff should recover, the jury did not reach a unanimous verdict. In addition, nothing in the facts indicates the parties stipulated to a 9-3 verdict. FRCP 48(b) states, “Unless the parties stipulate otherwise, the verdict must be unanimous and must be returned by a jury of at least 6 members.” Thus, a unanimous verdict was required and because such a verdict had not been reached, the court was well within its authority to order a new trial.
(B) is incorrect because it is an inaccurate statement of the law. It is overbroad. Where the result of the polling reveals a lack of unanimity, the court’s only options pursuant to FRCP 48(c) are to direct the jury to deliberate further or order a new trial.
(C) is incorrect because in this situation, the court has two options under FRCP 48(c) as noted above—direct the jury to deliberate further or order a new trial.
(D) is incorrect because according to FRCP 48(b), “Unless the parties stipulate otherwise, the verdict must be unanimous and must be returned by a jury of at least 6 members.” Here, the facts do not indicate that the parties agreed to anything less than a unanimous vote, so even though nine jurors did reach the same verdict, the requirements of FRCP 48(b) were not satisfied.
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