288 F.2d 595 (2d Cir. 1961)

Plaintiff was a sailor aboard a ship operated by Defendant.  He filed suit against Defendant claiming he had suffered permanent injury to his back as a result of his shipboard duties.

The United States district court judge submitted the case to the jury in the form of 8 written interrogatories.  During deliberations, the jury sent the judge several notes asking for clarification on the first question.  The judge attempted to clarify but the jury was still unable to reach a verdict.

Four hours later, the jury sent the judge a note saying they did not think agreement was possible.  The judge withdrew the interrogatories and asked if they could reach a general verdict.  After another four hours, the jury reached a verdict in favor of Plaintiff.

Defendant appealed claiming that since the interrogatories were already submitted; the withdrawal of the them was not authorized and was an abuse of discretion on the trial judge’s part.

 The issue facing the court of appeals was whether the withdrawal of written interrogatories that had already been submitted to the jury an abuse of discretion by the trial judge.  The court ruled in the negative and held that the withdrawal of written interrogatories that had already been submitted to the jury was not an abuse of discretion by the trial judge.  The court reasoned that the withdrawing all of the questions was an attempt by the trial judge to eliminate confusion, and not an attempt to bias the jury.

Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion and the judgment was affirmed.

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