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Turner v. L.L. Murphrey Hog Co.

Filed: October 16, 1979.

JAMES TURNER AND RAY MURRAY
v.
L.L. MURPHREY HOG COMPANY



Appeal by defendant from Bruce, Judge. Judgment entered 1 September 1978 in Superior Court, Lenoir County. Heard in the Court of Appeals on 27 September 1979.

Hedrick, Judge. Judges Clark and Martin (Harry C.) concur.

Hedrick

By assignments of error numbers 3, 5 and 7, defendant asserts that the court erred in the issues submitted to the jury and the instructions given thereon. We focus our attention on the

second issue submitted. Defendant argues that this issue is confusing, and that the jury was confused by the judge's confusing instructions. We agree.

John Milton in Paradise Lost described Hell as, "Confusion worse confounded." The "hellish" position in which the participants to this comedy of errors found themselves is manifest in the colloquy between the jury and the judge when it returned to inquire:

Foreman: A point has arisen on issue no. 2. Was there an average of 34 pigs weighing less or did each pig weigh less than 40 pounds?

Court: The question is: Were 34 pigs weighing less than 40 pounds delivered in the third lot of pigs on July 23, 1976?

Foreman: Was it average or each?

Court: Each has nothing to do with average.

The attorney has specified that 32 pounds, if that serves me right.

That would mean that some were over 40 pounds to bring it down to 37 pounds. You have got to go on what your recollection is of the evidence and use your own logic and common sense. It doesn't make sense unless you rely on each.

Much of the confusion experienced by the judge and jury lies in the wording of the second issue. There is no evidence in this record that the plaintiff delivered thirty-four pigs to the defendant weighing less than forty pounds. Yet, an affirmative answer to the second issue would yield the absurd conclusion that the plaintiff delivered thirty-four pigs each averaging 1.176 pounds. The issue as stated by the court required the jury, if it was to make any sense whatsoever, to return a negative answer to the issue. Thus, the defendant was deprived of having the jury ...


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