A compromise verdict is a verdict that occurs when some jurors vote against their true views on certain issues to avoid a deadlock. The compromises often involve issues of liability/guilt or proper monetary compensation.
In all federal cases and the majority of state cases, a jury verdict must be unanimous to be actionable. If a jury fails to reach a unanimous decision, a scenario known as a hung jury, the case will usually result in a mistrial.
A compromise verdict is typically either a quid-pro-quo exchange or an agreement to meet-in-the-middle. In the former, one group of jurors may agree to vote that the defendant is liable in exchange for the other group agreeing to set the monetary damages low. In the later, jury members who believe the defendant is completely innocent and jury members who believe the defendant is guilty of murder may agree to find the defendant guilty of manslaughter, a lesser crime.
A jury may choose to utilize a compromise verdict because it limits the possibility of a mistrial. If a mistrial occurs, the case can be refiled, and a new trial will take place. This new trial may result in a verdict that makes no one on the current jury happy, making a compromise verdict more appealing by comparison.
[Last updated in July of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]