Argued: November 8, 2016.
K. Mills, Esq. (orally), Hale & Hamlin, LLC, Ellsworth,
for appellant Jaime Wilson.
C. King, Esq. (orally), and Jonathan P. Hunter, Esq., Rudman
Winchell, Bangor, for appellee William Condon.
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
REPORTER OF DECISIONS.
Jaime Wilson appeals from a judgment entered in the Superior
Court (Washington County, Stokes, J.) in favor of
Philip Barnard on his complaint for negligence against
William Condon but awarding no damages on Wilsons derivative
claim for loss of consortium. Wilson contends that the jurys
award of no damages for loss of consortium was manifestly
inadequate and internally inconsistent and that the court
erred in denying her motion for additur or a new trial on
that basis. We affirm the judgment.
We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the jury
verdict. See Marr v. Shores, 495A.2d 1202, 1206 (Me.
1985). In 2007, husband and wife Philip Barnard and Jaime
Wilson moved into an apartment owned by William Condon. On
June 15, 2007, a deck attached to the apartment collapsed
while Barnard was standing on it, causing him significant
injuries. In 2013, Barnard and Wilson filed a complaint
against Condon in the Superior Court alleging that Condon had
been negligent and seeking damages for Barnards medical
expenses, lost earnings, permanent impairment, pain,
suffering, and emotional distress, and Wilsons loss of
consortium. Barnard and Wilson divorced during the pendency
of that lawsuit.
In October of 2015, the court conducted a jury trial.
Regarding the loss of consortium claim, the verdict form
asked the jury to answer the compound question, "Was
William Condon negligent, and was his negligence a cause of
injuries to Jaime Wilson?" (Question 3), with a
"Yes" or a "No." If the jury answered
Question 3 in the affirmative, the verdict form then asked
the jury to answer the question, "What are Jaime Wilsons
total damages?" (Question 4).
During deliberation, the jury sent the following note to the
court: "Your honor, we believe [William] Condon was
negligent and Mr. Barnard deserves damages that were the
result of Mr. Condons negligence. But we do not believe Jaime
Wilson is entitled to damages, in spite of Mr. Condons
negligence. How do we answer questions # 3 and # 4 in light
of our judgments of the evidence?" In response to the
jurys question, and with the agreement of the parties, the
court directed the jurors to "focus on question
three." In the verdict it announced later that day, the
jury awarded $610, 000 to Barnard and answered Question 3 in
the affirmative, but entered "0" when asked what
were Wilsons total damages in Question 4. The court denied
Wilsons subsequent motion for additur or a new trial in which
she argued that the verdict was manifestly inadequate and
internally inconsistent. See M.R. Civ. P. 59(a).
Wilson contends that the court erred in denying her motion
for additur or a new trial, arguing, as she did in the
Superior Court, that the jurys verdict was manifestly
inadequate and internally inconsistent in that the jury
rationally could not have found that Condon had injured her
while awarding no damages. In support of her argument, she
points to essentially uncontroverted testimonial evidence
about the adverse effects of Barnards injuries on their
marriage and to the jurys responses to Questions 3 and 4 of
the verdict form.
We review a ruling on a motion for additur or new trial for
an abuse of discretion, viewing the evidence in the light
most favorable to the verdict and deferring to the jury on
issues of credibility. Marr, 495 A.2d at 1206-07;
accord Ma v. Bryan, 2010 ME 55, ¶¶ 2, 4,
8, 997A.2d 755 ("We accord significant deference to jury
verdicts because the jury is best situated to evaluate the
credibility and demeanor of witnesses."); see
Guilford Yacht Club Ass'n, Inc. v. Ne. Dredging,
Inc., 438 A.2d 478, 481 (Me. 1981) ("[A]ll rational
intendments are to be taken in support of the jury
verdict." (quotation marks omitted)). An award of
damages is "the sole province of the jury, "
Binette v. Deane, 391A.2d 811, 815 (Me. 1978)
(quotation marks omitted), and "will not be overturned
unless it is without rational explanation, " Walter
v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2000 ME 63, ¶ 35, 748
A.2d 961 (quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, an appellant
who argues that a court abused its discretion in denying a
motion for additur or a new trial due to inadequate damages
bears the significant burden of showing that "the award
is without rational explanation and, hence, is to be deemed a
disregard by the jury of the evidence or the result of
passion, bias, prejudice, accident, mistake [of fact or law]
or improper compromise." Binette, 391 A.2d at
815 (quotation marks omitted); accord Chenell v.
Westbrook Coll., 324 A.2d 735, 737 (Me. 1974).
Wilson has failed to meet her burden of demonstrating any of
the available grounds for overturning a jurys verdict
pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 59(a). In alleging that the jury had
no rational basis for its verdict, Wilson points to little
else aside from the fact that the jury did not find in her
favor when it refused to award her damages. See Ma,2010 ME 55, ¶ 10, 997A.2d755; see also Nyzio v.
Vaillancourt,382 A.2d 856, 862 (Me. 1978) (explaining
that the amount of damages awarded was insufficient, by
itself, to show that the jury acted improperly). Verdicts in
which a jury finds a defendant liable but awards low or no
damages to the plaintiff are not inherently irrational or
improper and do not necessarily warrant additur or a new
trial pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 59(a). See Reardon v.
Larkin,2010 ME 86, ¶¶ 16-17, 3 A.3d 376;