Diniero v. United States Lines Co.

288 F. 2d 595, cert. den. 368 U.S. 831 (1961)


Diniero (P), a ship engineer, sued United States Lines Co. (D) to recover for damages suffered when he was operating a valve. P alleged permanent injury to his back. The issues at trial were whether or not the injuries were preexisting, and whether or not P operated the valve correctly. The judge submitted the case along with eight interrogatories to be answered by the jury. The jury had difficulties with the first question: 'Did the plaintiff injure himself aboard because in operating the blowdown valve he had to remove the floor plates, then crouch and exert physical effort with a wrench and not his hand to stop it from leaking?' The jury was unable to reach an answer on the first interrogatory even after clarification by the judge on several occasions. The trial judge then removed all the questions from the jury and asked for a general verdict. D objected. The jury found for P. D appealed: Rule 49(b) of the Fed. R. Civ. P authorizes the submission of written interrogatories but not their withdrawal once they have been submitted to the jury and deliberations have begun, and the very act of withdrawal allows a jury who is unable to agree on the facts to do 'popular justice' through the medium of an old-fashioned verdict.