Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Perverse Verdict Definition:

A decision of a jury which runs altogether contrary to the evidence presented before it.

Related Terms: Jury, Verdict, Jury Nullification

Justice Nettesheim of the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin used the following words in Becker v State Farm:

"For a verdict to be perverse, there must be something to warrant a finding that considerations which were ulterior to a reasonably fair application of the jury's judgment to the evidence, under the court's instructions, controlled or materially influenced the jury. A verdict is perverse when the jury clearly refuses to follow the direction or instruction of the trial court upon a point of law, or where the verdict reflects highly emotional, inflammatory or immaterial considerations, or an obvious prejudgment with no attempt to be fair."

In Evenden v Merchants Casualty Insurance, Justice Turgeon of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal adopted these words:

"A perverse verdict may, probably, be defined as, one that is not only against the weight of evidence but is altogether against the evidence....

"[A] perverse verdict is one, for instance, in which it appears that the jury have not confined themselves to the terms of the issue and to the evidence legitimately brought before them, but have allowed extraneous topics to be introduced into the jury box. The only remedy in such a case is a new trial before another jury."

In their 1995 treatise on civil procedure, authors Côté and Stevenson wrote:

"The severe limits on the power of the court to overrule jury findings are set out in many cases. Some cases require that there be such unreasonableness that no properly instructed jury could judicially have reached that verdict. [T]he trial judge has less power to deal with a perverse verdict than does an appeal court.

"The test may be whether there is any evidence at all for the jury's findings, or foundation in law for the verdict. A verdict will be held perverse only if dishonest in the sense that the jury did not appreciate its duty, or acted wilfully in violation of it. Where there were credibility issues, one could not call is perverse just because they believed one party and not the other. Some evidence the other way does not make a verdict perverse. It is similar to excessive verdicts. The test for upsetting them is whether they are bad in law, lacking evidentiary support, or so unreasonable that no jury reviewing the evidence as a whole and acting judicially could have awarded that amount. "

REFERENCES:

  • Becker v. State Farm Insurance Company., 416 NW 2d 906 (1987)
  • Côté, Jean and Stevenson, William, Civil Procedure Encyclopedia, Vol. 3 (Edmonton: Jurliber, 2003), page 48-17. Cited with approval by Justice Wilson of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Teskey v. Toronto Transit Commission, 29 CCEL (3d) 217 (2003) who added: "the legal test for a trial judge to intervene once a jury has rendered a verdict is extremely narrow and limited to two circumstances. (A) trial judge may refuse to accept the verdict of a jury if he or she concludes that there is no evidence to support the finding of the jury, or where the jury gives an answer to a question that cannot in law provide a foundation for judgment. Intervention is limited to verdicts bad in law, or devoid of evidentiary support.... (T)he unreasonable or perverse verdict is an appellate court issue, not an issue to be dealt with by the trial judge."
  • Evenden v. Merchants Casualty Insurance Co., [1935] 2 W.W.R. 484

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