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Melendez v. Rodde

Decided: October 15, 1980.

NADIA MELENDEZ AND RUBEN BURGOS, ADMINISTRATOR AND ADMINISTRATOR AD PROSEQUENDUM OF ESTATE OF ANTONIA BURGOS, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS, ADAMINA RIVERA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HELENA RODDE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. JOHANN LECHNER, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT, V. HELENA RODDE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. JAMES MCALLISTER, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT, V. HELENA RODDE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County.

Seidman, Antell and Lane.

Per Curiam

Following a trial on damages only of these consolidated personal injury, automobile liability cases, a jury returned unanimous verdicts:

Nadia Melendez $150,000

James McAllister 1,000

Johann Lechner 30,000

Estate of Antonia Burgos 50,000

Defendant moved for a new trial on the ground that the judge failed to instruct the jury to commence again its deliberations after replacing one of the jurors during deliberations. By opinion letter dated September 27, 1978 the trial judge held that the failure to charge the jury constituted error, citing State v. Miller , 76 N.J. 392 (1978), but that the error was incapable of producing an unjust result. Defendant further moved to set aside the verdicts in favor of the Estate of Antonia Burgos and Johann Lechner on the ground that they were excessive. These motions were denied. Defendant appeals from "the verdict on damages only rendered by the jury" and from the order denying the motion for a new trial.

In her brief on appeal defendant argues only that the substitution of an alternate juror with failure to instruct the jury that it must begin its deliberations anew was error and that the

verdict awarding $50,000 to the Estate of Antonia Burgos was grossly excessive and a manifest miscarriage of justice.

In State v. Trent , 79 N.J. 251 (1979), the trial judge did not instruct the jury to begin its deliberations anew after an alternate juror had been substituted. Although that issue had not been raised at trial or in the Appellate Division, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of conviction on that ground. It referred with approval to People v. Collins , 17 Cal. 3d 687, 131 Cal.Rptr. 782, 552 P. 2d 742 (Sup.Ct.1976).

We are aware of no case in New Jersey where the rule has been applied to civil verdicts. But see R. ...


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