negligence case. Indeed, there is no conflict at all.
Further, at the very time the jury started to render this verdict, the court inquired of counsel, and before receiving the verdict, whether they desired the court to ascertain more clearly the meaning of this lengthy verdict. Counsel expressed no such desire. The verdict was thereupon received.
True, General Motors' counsel said he was 'not content with the findings' of the jury. However, he added 'but I understand the findings', as stated by the jury and referred to by the court. Of course, he was 'not content with the findings', which had just found General Motors liable as a joint tort-feasor to the extent of $ 45,000. But when he said 'I understand the findings', and had no 'question' as to them, and when he failed to accept the court's invitation 'to ascertain more clearly what the jury mean by their statement' (special verdict), he must have meant that not only was the verdict clear and unambiguous, but that it appeared lawful and consistent. For had General Motors then raised any question as to the meaning of the special verdict or its possible inconsistency, the jury's intent would have been lawfully and promptly ascertained by the court, as intimated, before the verdict was formally received. Were this intent of the jury then found to be unlawful, as inconsistent, as General Motors now contends, the jury's attention would have been called thereto, the pertinent law explained, and such tentative error doubtless promptly corrected. Were the jury's intent lawful, despite a possible ambiguity in expressing a legal conclusion in the vernacular, then also such ambiguity would have been clarified, and an unambiguous lawful verdict obtained. In short, after a party has refused the invitation of the court to clarify any possible ambiguity in a lengthy special verdict, and thereby promptly obtain a lawful final verdict, such party can hardly rely on a mere ambiguity in the verdict, as a basis for nullifying a trial lasting over two weeks, with the consequent waste of time and money of all concerned, particularly in the light of the rule that a jury's verdict is to be sustained, in the absence of irreconcilable conflict.
Again, General Motors seeks to attack the verdict rendered in favor of Flusk, who was not a party to the case in which the questioned special verdict was rendered, and who in fact was not mentioned in such special verdict. General Motors participated in framing the question giving rise to the special verdict. As framed, it was appropriate to the indemnity case, but totally inappropriate to the Flusk case. Flusk could not object thereto. How can Flusk's verdict in justice be nullified by a special verdict in another case, appropriate to such case, and inappropriate to Flusk's case, when rendered in answer to a question itself appropriate to such other case, but inappropriate to the case whose verdict is sought to be nullified? Surely General Motors, which failed to accept the court's prompt invitation to question such verdict, should not now be heard to object thereto.
In any event, as seen above, the conflict between the special verdict directly attacked and the general verdict in the other case, sought to be nullified, is not irreconcilable. The attack on the general verdict in the Flusk case, in this aspect, thus fails.
Quantum of Damages.
Both General Motors and Erie seek to set aside the verdict as to damages, claiming same to be so excessive as to show passion, prejudice, partiality or mistake. The injuries to plaintiff were indeed serious, with one or more skull fractures, from which he lay for many days in a precarious condition in the hospital. However, whether because of his youth, or otherwise, the only permanent injuries remaining, outside of scars, are occasional headaches, dizziness, blurring of the vision, and ringing in the ears, which at most occur for an hour or so a day. There is no total, or even substantial, disability which really affects plaintiff's earning a livelihood or even his domestic life. Despite these permanent injuries, including the scars, he has since become married.
It would serve no useful purpose to cite authorities on damages, though it must, of course, be borne in mind that the dollar today is worth but half what it was a score of years ago. Suffice it to say, that while the defendants have cited several recent cases where permanent total disability, or its equivalent, i. e., a disability much greater than Flusk's, was reduced from some $ 45,000 to some $ 30,000, plaintiff has cited no case of that character, where a verdict of $ 45,000 was sustained. It would therefore seem that the present verdict is clearly excessive, and that a fair verdict under all the circumstances, would be $ 30,000.
Accordingly, a form of order will be presented by counsel that, if plaintiff does not accept the reduction of the verdict against both Erie and General Motors to the amount of $ 30,000, within two weeks from the date of such order, a new trial will be granted.