Incorrect / Misleading Jury Instructions and Reversible Error
I have discussed the importance of jury instructions. Time should be taken crafting applicable jury instructions based on the law to discuss during the charging conference where the judge determines the jury instructions to read to the jury. What happens if a court reads a misleading and incorrect jury instruction? Final judgment may be reversed and a new trial ordered–reversible error!
In a first-party property insurance coverage dispute, the court read a jury instruction relating to the insured and insurer’s burden of proof. The jury instruction, however, was confusing and contained an incorrect burden of proof for the insurer. As a result, the jury found in favor of the insured and a final judgment was rendered. The Second District reversed the final judgment because the burden of proof jury instruction was misleading and incorrect potentially leading the jury to reach a conclusion it might not have reached had the jury instruction not been misleading and incorrect. Citizens Property insurance Corp. v. Salkey, 41 Fla. L. Weekly D509a (Fla. 2d DCA 2016); see also Allstate Ins. Co. v. Vanater, 297 So.2d 293 (Fla. 2000) (explaining that an erroneous jury instruction concerning the burden of proof is reversible error because it could lead the jury to reach a conclusion it might not have reached had the jury instruction been correct).
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