“Good Count / Bad Count” Error Yields New Trial

After being charged on five claims, the jury returned a general verdict for the plaintiff. Two of the claims were not supported by substantial evidence. The verdict was thus flawed under the “good count / bad count” rule. The Supreme Court of Alabama reversed the judgment entered on the verdict, and remanded the case for a new trial on the viable claims. Mobile OB-GYN, P.C. v. Baggett, Nos. 1071020, 1071081 (Ala. Jun. 12, 2009).

The jury received five negligence claims in this medical malpractice case. It returned a general verdict for the plaintiff. The defendant appealed, convincing the Supreme Court of Alabama that two of the claims were not supported by “substantial evidence” and should not have gone to the jury. This brought the verdict under the “good count / bad count” rule. As the state’s high court explained:

[W]hen the trial court submits to the jury a “good count” — one that is supported by the evidence — and a “bad count” — one that is not supported by the evidence — and the jury returns a general verdict, this Court cannot presume that the verdict was returned on the good count. In such a case, a judgment entered upon the verdict must be reversed.

(Quotation omitted) (emphases by court).

The appellate court thus reversed the judgment on the verdict, held that the defendant was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law on the deficient claims, and remanded the case for a new trial on the “good” claims.