Bill Cosby was minutes away from hearing his fate in a civil trial that's been ongoing for a couple weeks now -- but he got a reprieve ... apparently because of budget cuts.
During Friday's court date in Santa Monica, Judge Craig Karlan -- who's presided over the case -- told jurors they'd have to restart deliberations from scratch Monday -- all 'cause of a weird way the day ended, including the foreperson being excused over a previous promise.
Long story short ... the jury had deliberated for 2 days prior to Friday, when they handed in their verdict form -- with answers to 8 of the 9 questions asked of them. The 1 they hadn't decided unanimously ... whether BC acted with malice, and deserved punitive damages.
They might've been able to head back in to decide that the very same day ... if it wasn't for Sheriff's deputies demanding the court clear the room at 4:30 PM, due to a required closure time. Word is ... there's no approved budget for overtime, so they gave everyone the boot.
The other issue ... the lead juror had been given the green light much earlier to skedaddle on Friday -- which is when they expected this would all be wrapped up. This juror, it seems, had a prior commitment ... and can't stick around any longer, including to come back and hash this out on Monday. As such, an alternate must fill in -- and the jury has to start over.
BTW, this case is all about a woman named Judy Huth ... who's alleged Cosby sexually assaulted her at the Playboy Mansion in 1975, when she was 16. He's denied her claims.