Special Verdict Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Special Verdict, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Special Verdict?

(n) Special verdict is the decision of the jury on the factual position involved in the case, leaving the verdict to the judge after considering the application of law in that case. Special verdicts are also issued when complex situation exists, where an explanation of law is required.

History and Meaning of Special Verdict

Special verdicts were first introduced in common law jurisdictions, including the United States and the United Kingdom, as a way to address complex legal matters. In a special verdict, the jury is tasked with determining the factual aspects of the case, while the judge is responsible for applying the relevant law. This allows for a more detailed and nuanced decision, particularly in cases where the law is unclear or the evidence is complex.

Examples of Special Verdict

  1. A jury in a personal injury lawsuit finds that the defendant was negligent, but is unsure whether the plaintiff's injuries are a result of that negligence. They issue a special verdict indicating the factual finding of negligence, but leave it to the judge to determine whether the defendant is liable for damages.
  2. In a criminal case, the jury determines that the defendant did commit the crime but is unsure about whether there was premeditation or intent. They issue a special verdict stating their factual findings, leaving the judge to apply the relevant law to determine the appropriate sentence.
  3. In a patent infringement case, the jury determines that the defendant did use the plaintiff's patented technology, but it is unclear whether the plaintiff's patent is valid. They issue a special verdict indicating their factual findings, leaving it to the judge to decide whether the patent is valid and thus whether the defendant is liable for infringement.

Legal Terms Similar to Special Verdict

  1. General Verdict - A verdict in which the jury makes a final decision on both factual findings and legal conclusions.
  2. Directed Verdict - A verdict issued by the judge when the evidence presented does not support a finding for the plaintiff.
  3. Advisory Verdict - A verdict that is not binding, but is meant to provide guidance to the judge.