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Special Interrogatories

01 Apr 2003

After recognizing that Illinois civil procedure strictly provides that "a trial court has no discretion to reject a special interrogatory that is proper in form," the Court found that a failure to do so in this case was "harmless" error.  A special interrogatory must both (i) relate to an ultimate issue of fact upon which the rights of the parties depend, and (ii) an answer responsive thereto must be inconsistent with some general verdict that might be returned.  In this case, the trial court erred in not submitting a special interrogatory on contributory negligence.  However, since the jury reduced the verdict by 20% due to contributory negligence, the Appellate Court found the error to be harmless.  The Court did state that it was not condoning broad application of the "harmless" error test, but only where the outcome of the trial would not be challenged.  McGovern v. Kaneshiro, No. 1-01-0150, 2003 Ill.App. LEXIS 86 (1st Dist. Jan. 27, 2003).

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