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Benedict v. Cozzens

Supreme Court of California
Oct 1, 1854
4 Cal. 381 (Cal. 1854)


         Appeal from the Sixth Judicial District.

         This was an action to recover damages from the defendants for a malicious prosecution, and the damages were laid at $ 10,000.

         At the October term, 1852, on the first trial, after the plaintiff had made some progress in the cause, he offered certain depositions in evidence, which on objection by the defendants, were rejected by the Court, and thereupon the Court, a the instance of the plaintiff, withdrew a juror. On the 28th of December, 1852, on motion of plaintiff's attorney, and it appearing to the satisfaction of the Court, that the papers in the case had been destroyed by fire, it was ordered by the Court that the plaintiff have leave to file a new complaint. On the 16th of June, 1853, the case was tried and the jury rendered a verdict for plaintiff, and assessed his damages at $ 8,500. Before proceeding to trial, defendants objected, contending that the withdrawal of a juror was equivalent to a nonsuit, and that a new and different complaint had been substituted, ex parte, without notice to the defendant. The Court overruled these objections, and the defendants excepted. Defendants afterwards moved for a new trial, on the grounds of excessive damages, insufficiency of evidence to justify the verdict, and error in law occurring at the trial. The Judge overruled the motion, on condition that the plaintiff should within twenty days file a remittitur of $ 3,000 from the verdict and judgment; whereupon the defendants appealed from the judgment and order denying a new trial.


         The Court erred in permitting a juror to be withdrawn, and in not nonsuiting the plaintiff. (Practice Act, § 148, 149, 158.) The Court erred in allowing the substitution of a complaint materially different without leave to defendant to file an amended answer. (8 Ala. 298.) The verdict of the jury was excessive, and for that reason a new trial should have been granted; the condition imposed by the Court shows this.

          Robinson, & Morrison, for Appellants.

          S. Saunders, Jr., for Respondent.

         Permitting a juror to be withdrawn is a matter within the discretion of the Court. (Graham's Practice, 291, 2d edit.; 8 Cow. 127; Gallison, 364.) The Court, under our practice, " in furtherance of justice," allowed the withdrawal and continued the case. The defendant was not prejudicedby the new complaint, as his answer was filed on the day of trial. The power of Court to impose terms, by way of remittitur, is fully settled. (2 Rich. S.C. 507, 512; Sandf. 20; Dibber v. Murphy, 1 How. Miss. 19; 17 Pick. 453.)

         JUDGES: Mr. Justice Heydenfeldt delivered the opinion of the Court. Mr. Ch. J. Murray concurred.


          HEYDENFELDT, Judge

         1. The withdrawal of the juror was made to operate as a continuance by the Court. Such must, then, have been the design of it, and otherwise unexplained, it must be presumed to have been done by consent, or without objection. Under any circumstances, it is no ground for reversal.

         2. The substitution of papers is always within the discretion of the Court, and no notice of the motion to apply for it need be given, when the notice can be of no use. The principal paper substituted here, was the declaration, to which the defendant had the opportunity afterwards to plead or demur. The only thing the defendant could have shown, if he had had notice on the motion to substitute, was that the paper offered was in some respects different from the one lost. But this difference, if it was material, could afterwards as well be adopted by motion to amend.

         3. There was no error in refusing the new trial. In requiring a remittitur of a portion of the judgment as terms for refusing the motion, the Court used a sound and admitted discretion. It is only saying that, although the verdict is excessive, yet had it been so much less it would not be excessive. By the reduction, the action of both Court and jury is made to coincide pro tanto against the defendant, and where that is the case, the result of the coincidence ought to be the measure of the judgment.

         Judgment affirmed, with ten per cent. damages.

Summaries of

Benedict v. Cozzens

Supreme Court of California
Oct 1, 1854
4 Cal. 381 (Cal. 1854)
Case details for

Benedict v. Cozzens

Case Details

Full title:JEREMIAH BENEDICT, Respondent, v. W. M. COZZENS et al., Appellants

Court:Supreme Court of California

Date published: Oct 1, 1854


4 Cal. 381 (Cal. 1854)

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