Two automobiles, approaching at right angles to each other, collided midway in an intersection controlled by a traffic signal. The guest-passenger in Car One was fatally injured. The administratrix of his estate (hereinafter referred to as plaintiff) brought a wrongful death action against the driver of Car Two, alleging negligence. In a separate action the driver of Car Two sought property and personal injury damages from the host-driver of Car One, alleging the latter's negligence. The host-driver of Car One counterclaimed for property damage, alleging negligence on the part of the driver of Car Two. Since the three claims arose from the same accident, the two actions were consolidated, over the objection of plaintiff, and tried to a single jury. The verdict in the action between the two drivers was that neither driver was entitled to recover against the other. In the wrongful death action the jury rendered its verdict in favor of the driver of Car Two. The trial judge, though aware that the verdicts seemed inconsistent, denied plaintiff's request for submission of special interrogatories to the jury to explain the apparent inconsistency, sustaining the driver of Car Two's objection to such inquiry. Plaintiff alone appealed, contending, inter alia, that the verdicts were inconsistent because the jury, in not finding in favor of either driver in their action against each other, must necessarily have found both drivers to have been negligent, and that, since the negligence of the host-driver cannot be imputed to the guest-passenger, plaintiff was entitled to recover against the necessarily negligent driver of Car Two. In an en banc opinion, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed. Held: After verdicts have been rendered in actions consolidated for trial, special interrogatories may not be submitted to the jury to explain an apparent inconsistency when the pleadings, evidence, and instructions of the court support a possible finding that the verdicts are consistent. Hawley v. Mellem, 66 Wash. Dec. 2d 753, 405 P.2d 243 (1965).
Annual Survey of Washington Law,
Propriety of Special Interrogatories to Explain Inconsistent Verdicts in Consolidated Actions,
41 Wash. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/wlr/vol41/iss3/26