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Read the stipulation….February 16, 2010

Grochowski v Fudella, 2010 NY Slip Op 01210 (4th Dept. 2010)

The world of summary jury trials.  Similar to many of the framed issue no-fault trials that occur everyday, the opposing sides in summary jury personal injury trials also stipulate to many different issues.  I think the drafters of the uniform rules on summary jury trials might have inadvertently omitted something, and an astute (or sneaky – take your pick) attorney took this omission and went to the bank with it.  See below:

“Plaintiff commenced this action seeking damages for injuries she sustained when her vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by defendant. Following a summary jury trial conducted pursuant to the parties’ stipulation in accordance with “the Summary Jury Trial Rules of the Eighth Judicial District,” the jury found in favor of defendant. Defendant appeals from an order granting plaintiff’s motion to set aside the verdict as against the weight of the evidence and for a new trial. We reject defendant’s contention that Supreme Court violated the terms of the stipulation in determining the motion. “A stipulation between parties is an independent contract subject to the principles of contract interpretation” (Matter of Black v New York State & Local Employees’ Retirement Sys., 30 AD3d 920, 920). Here, the parties stipulated that the issue of negligence would be submitted to the jury and that neither party would request the court to direct a verdict pursuant to CPLR 4401 on that issue. The stipulation is silent, however, with respect to motions to set aside the verdict as against the weight of the evidence pursuant to CPLR 4404, and thus the court properly concluded that the terms of the stipulation do not evince the intent of plaintiff to forego her right to move to set aside the verdict (see generally White v Winter, 28 AD3d 1148).”

Why would someone forgo the right to a directed verdict yet agree to weight of evidence review?  Could someone please help me.

One Response

  1. Sun Tzu says:

    There is no reason for it, of course. Thus, he should have had it written in the stip. Assuming a party negotiates significant procedural rights away, that should be expressly set forth in the stip. If not, we can expect cases to disintegrate into swearing matches not premised upon the facts.

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