Converse Instructions, Jury Instructions

In jury trials, the jury instructions can be fairly complex. If there are incorrect jury instructions, it will probably result in reversal by an appellate court. This means that and any jury verdict is set aside and there will likely be a new trial.

In Missouri, a defendant is entitled to one converse instruction for each of plaintiff’s verdict directing instructions. Gaal v. BJC Health System, 597 S.W.2d 277, 289 (Mo. Ct. App. 2019). There are two types of converse instructions: true converse and affirmative converse. Id.  A true converse instruction begins: “[]y]our verdict must be for the defendant unless you believe,” and it must mimic the language of the plaintiff’s verdict directing instruction. Id. An affirmative converse, on the other hand, hypothesize an ultimate issue that, if true and supported by evidence, would defeat plaintiff’s claim. Id.

Confusingly, affirmative defenses are treated separately for jury instructions. Specifically, “where a defendant has presented an affirmative defense at trial, the defendant is entitled [to] both a converse instruction and an instruction on the affirmative defense.” Id. (citing Moore v. Parks, 458 S.W.2d 344, 349 (Mo. 1970)).

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