Civil Procedure-Trial Practice-Special Verdict Question That Can Be Decisive Only if Answered Negatively

Plaintiff was severely burned by the explosion of a can of “liquid bug killer” allegedly sold to him by defendant. Four issues of fact were raised: whether defendant sold the can in question to plaintiff, the former’s negligence, the latter’s contributory negligence, and the amount of the damages. The trial judge submitted to the jury, over the objections of both parties, only the first issue, in the form of a single question of fact. The jury, having served three days past the end of its term and one hour past the normal time for adjournment, was instructed that a finding for defendant on the single question submitted would exonerate defendant, while a finding for plaintiff would necessitate submission of further issues. The jury found for defendant on the issue submitted, and the trial judge entered judgment accordingly. The state intermediate appellate court affirmed. On certiorari to the Supreme Court of Tennessee, held, reversed, one judge dissenting. The right of trial by jury, as preserved by the Tennessee constitution, requires that the jury be informed as to its option to return a general verdict for either party, that the jury not be informed of the legal effect of its answers to special verdict questions, and that all issues raised by the pleadings be submitted to the jury. Harbison v. Briggs Bros. Paint Mfg. Co., 209 Tenn. 534, 354 S.W.2d 464 (1962).