Jury Trials 101: What is Remittitur? What Court Reporters Need to Know

 

Skilled court reporters know the ins and outs of trials, so they can navigate situations that might otherwise be confusing with ease. Even when a court reporter isn’t directly reporting on a matter, understanding the context surrounding an issue is extremely helpful.

Did you know that in most states there are mechanisms in the law that allow a trial judge, in certain cases, to change a jury’s verdict?  In this post, we’ll discuss one of those: Remittitur.  This procedure allows a trial judge to decrease the amount of damages a jury awards to a plaintiff. If you are the plaintiff in a lawsuit, you certainly don’t want this to happen. For example, if you were injured in a slip and fall accident, you’ll want a slip and fall lawyer Memphis TN trusts to prepare your case for trial. While remittitur is not always avoidable, we know how to present cases at trial to increase the chances that favorable jury verdicts for our clients will stand.

The trial judge, charged with ensuring a fair trial, serves as a check on a jury’s discretion to award damages.  One way the trial judge does this is by serving as what is referred to as “the thirteenth juror.”  As “the thirteenth juror,” the judge must independently weigh and review the evidence presented at trial to determine whether it preponderates in favor of the verdict and decide whether he or she agrees with and is satisfied with the jury’s verdict. No verdict is valid unless approved by the trial judge.

Generally, if the trial judge is not satisfied with the jury’s verdict, the judge must set aside the verdict and order a new trial. If the trial judge’s dissatisfaction, however, is based only upon the jury’s award of damages, the trial judge may suggest a remittitur, which, if accepted by the plaintiff, would reduce the award to an amount the judge deems appropriate. Remittiturs were designed to correct excessive jury verdicts as an alternative to the more expensive and less efficient solution of granting of a whole new trial.

Trial judges may suggest adjustments to a jury’s verdict even if the verdict is within the range of reasonableness. The range of reasonableness is determined by establishing the upper and lower limits of an award of damages that can be supported by material proof. To decide whether a verdict is within the range of reasonableness, the  judge must consider the credible proof at trial regarding the nature and extent of the injuries, pain and suffering, economic losses including past and future medical bills, lost wages and loss of earning capacity, age, and life expectancy.

In a personal injury case, the question is whether the amount of money awarded to the injured person is excessive, which requires ascertainment of a figure that represents the point at which excessiveness begins. This will establish the upper limit of the range of reasonableness. An excessive verdict may be cured by remitting the sum by which the award exceeds that figure.  The judge may consider the amount awarded in similar cases in determining whether a verdict is excessive.

When the trial judge suggests a remittitur, the plaintiff has three options: accept the remittitur, refuse the remittitur and opt for a new trial, or accept the remittitur under protest and seek relief from a higher court.

If you need help with a personal injury case or are a court reporter looking to understand more about the trial process, please contact us today.

wisemanbray attorneys at lawThanks to our friends and contributors at Wiseman Bray PLLC for their insight into jury trials and remittitur.