Supreme Court Seal
South Carolina
JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT
Site Map | Feedback
24684 - Vinson v. Jackson

Davis Adv. Sh. No. 26
S.E. 2d

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA

In The Supreme Court

Evelyn Brumley Vinson, Respondent,

v.

Ruby McLemore Jackson, Petitioner.

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS

Appeal From Darlington County

Ralph King Anderson, Jr., Judge

Opinion No. 24684

Heard January 11, 1996 - Filed September 2, 1997

REVERSED AND REMANDED

Jack L. Nettles and Clifford C. McBride, both of Nettles &

Nettles, P.A., of Florence, for petitioner.

Martin S. Driggers, of Driggers & Baxley, of Hartsville and

Finley B. Clarke, of Florence, for respondent.

Finney, C.J.: We granted certiorari to review the Court of Appeals'

decision in Vinson v. Jackson, 317 S.C. 166, 452 S.E.2d 16 (Ct. App. 1994). We

reverse and remand for a new trial.

A jury trial was held to determine the liability for damages

resulting from an automobile collision. Evelyn Vinson introduced evidence of the

following damages: medical bills $6,919.28; lost wages $2,700; pain, suffering

and scars. Ruby Jackson counterclaimed for $3,000 in property damages.

The trial judge gave the jury three verdict forms to choose from.

Verdict Form # 1 was to be used if the jury found for Vinson, Verdict Form # 2

was to be used if the jury found for Jackson on her counterclaim and Verdict

Form # 3 was to be used if the jury found for Jackson on Vinson's claim. After

p28


VINSON v. JACKSON

the jury began deliberations, they asked the judge to re-charge the law on

comparative negligence. Subsequently, the jury returned the following verdict

using Form # 2:

WE, THE JURY, FIND FOR THE DEFENDANT(S)

Ruby McLamora [sic] Jackson - 49%, AGAINST THE

PLAINTIFF(S) Evelyn Brumley Vinson - 51% ON THE

COUNTERCLAIM IN THE SUM OF fifteen thousand,

one hundred twenty six dollars and nine cents.

DOLLARS, ACTUAL DAMAGES.

$29,659

x 51%

_______

$15,126.09

S/___________

FOREPERSON

The jury was dismissed without objection to the verdict.

Afterwards, Vinson's attorney asked to have the verdict repeated. Vinson

insisted the jury must have used the wrong form, because the evidence did not

support damages for Jackson in the amount listed by the jury. Jackson argued

the verdict form indicated the jury found in favor of Jackson on her

counterclaim. The trial judge entered a verdict for Vinson (plaintiff) against

Jackson (defendant) because he was convinced the jury intended to award

damages to Vinson. Jackson moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict

and alternatively for a new trial or new trial nisi. Her motion was denied.

On appeal, a majority of the Court of Appeals affirmed and found

that although the jury used the verdict form stating "we find for the defendant"

the evidence logically showed the jury intended to find in favor of plaintiff

Vinson. Judge Goolsby dissented, finding that since the jury used Form # 2, the

verdict was for Jackson on her counterclaim. We agree with the dissent and

find the trial court erred in amending the verdict.

The verdict form expressly states the jury found for defendant

Jackson on the counterclaim, however the amount awarded for actual damages

is unexplainable. On its face, the verdict indicates the jury found Jackson 49%

at fault and Vinson 51% at fault. The verdict becomes ambiguous when the

damages awarded are considered in light of the evidence presented. Jackson

only counterclaimed for $3,000.

Once the jury in a civil case is discharged, the trial judge has little

power to correct or amend a jury's verdict which, on its face, is unambiguous.

See Anderson v. Aetna Casualty & Sur. Co., 175 S.C. 254, 178 S.E. 819 (1935).

"A jury verdict should be upheld when it is possible to do so and carry into

effect the jury's clear intention. However, when a verdict is so confused that the

p29


VINSON v. JACKSON

jury's intent is unclear, the safest and best course is to order a new trial."

Johnson v. Parker, 279 S.C. 132, 303 S.E.2d 95 (1983). The verdict is internally

inconsistent and unexplainable. Accordingly, the appropriate remedy on appeal

is to grant a new trial. We reverse and remand for a new trial.

REVERSED AND REMANDED.

TOAL, MOORE, WALLER and BURNETT, JJ., concur.

p30