Tort Law

Keith A. Cutler, Esquire

Where judgment is entered on general verdict, court cannot allocate damages to specific categories.  Mickey v. BNSF Railway Company, et al., No. 98647 (Mo. App. E.D., June 11, 2013), Cohen, J.

Plaintiff filed a Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) action against defendant for bodily injuries sustained while working.  Plaintiff’s claim also included lost wages and benefits.   The jury returned a general verdict in favor of Plaintiff for $345,000.   To satisfy the judgment, defendant tendered to plaintiff a check for the amount of the judgment, less $12,820.80, which defendant withheld for plaintiff’s portion of railroad employment taxes.   Plaintiff refused to accept the tendered amount, and requested that the court enter judgment for the full amount of the verdict against the defendant’s surety on the supersedeas bond.  Defendant moved the court to find that the Judgment had been fully satisfied.  The trial court refused to find that the judgment had been satisfied, and granted plaintiff judgment on the bond.  Defendant appealed.

Held:  Affirmed
.   While special verdicts specify categories of damages, such as pain and suffering, lost wages, etc., general verdicts do not do so A general verdict awards an amount to a plaintiff for the total amount of plaintiff s damages .   In this case, the jury s verdict was a general verdict, since Missouri Rule of Civil Procedure 71.02 provides that “[i]n every issue for the recovery of money only, or specific or real property, the jury shall render a general verdict .”  As such, there was no allocation in the verdict for lost wages ,” and thus no way for the trial court to determine how much of the verdict amount, if any, was allocable to lost wages Moreover, the court of appeals held “[a ]fter a verdict has been received by the court and the jury is discharged, a trial court has no authority to correct or amend it in matters of substance, only in mere matters of form,” (quoting Kansas City Power & Light Company v. Bibb & Associates, Inc., 197 S.W.3d 147, 155 (Mo. App. W.D., 2006)).  So, even if the amount of the jury’s general verdict attributable to lost wages could have been determined, the trial court had no authority to correct or amend the verdict to make such an allocation. Therefore, the trial court’s determination that the judgment was not satisfied due to defendant’s withholding of $12,820.80 for employment taxes, which may or may not have been owed by plaintiff, was correct.