In an opinion written by Justice Henry DuPont Ridgely, a unanimous panel of the Delaware Supreme Court recently threw out a $2.8 million verdict in the case of Michael Galliher v. R.T. Vanderbilt. Defense Litigation Insider previously covered the verdict and Trial Court’s post trial opinion. Here, R.T. Vanderbilt (“Vanderbilt”) appealed the verdict claiming the Trial Court failed to include a necessary jury instruction and certain testimony from plaintiff’s witnesses prejudiced the trial. Plaintiff cross appealed and claimed he should receive post-verdict interest on the award, but the Supreme Court did not reach that issue. Instead, the Court ordered a new trial based on the fact that Dr. Barry Castleman provided inadmissible testimony and the Trial Court did not provide a jury instruction on the duty of care owed by Mr. Galliher’s employer.
Dr. Castleman’s Testimony:
During cross examination, Dr. Castleman made several statements that were non-responsive to questions of defense counsel, including some information that had been specifically excluded by the Trial Court. Dr. Castleman testified that: (1) Johns-Manville employees had called Vanderbilt “liars;” (2) Vanderbilt spent millions of dollars on studies to undermine government regulatory action with respect to its talc; and (3) it was “buying senators and lobbying the government.” The Court determined Dr. Castleman’s unsolicited testimony during cross examination was inadmissible and its prejudicial effect required a new trial.
The Court also overturned the verdict because the Trial Court did not include an instruction to the jury on the duty of care owed by Mr. Galliher’s employer. Vanderbilt sought apportionment of fault to the employer and requested a duty of care instruction. While the Trial Court indicated it would include such an instruction in the final set of jury instructions, it omitted the instruction from the set given to the jury. The Court found that was an error and such an instruction must be added for the re-trial, which has since been scheduled for March 9, 2015.
Trial Tip Take Aways:
* Disclosure: Bill Larson served as the Trial Judge’s law clerk during the Galliher trial, but had no involvement in the post-trial motions.