Adding or Subtracting From a Tennessee Jury Verdict
In a personal injury trial, it is the jury that has the ultimate authority to determine who was negligent, whether you are injured, and how injured you were. This is a protection guaranteed by our Constitution. Although a judge will be at your personal injury trial, and play an active role, the judge’s role is not to second guess the jury.
On the other hand, the law realizes that juries are people, and people do err. Meshing the everyday people who sit on a jury with the complexities of the law often creates problems. Sometimes, juries make decisions that simply are so far out of left field, that a judge must step in and alter the jury’s decision.
This is a power the judge has, but which the judge must always be careful about using, so as not to disturb the sanctity and importance of a jury. You can imagine that juries would mean little, if a judge could just, with the swipe of a pen (or mouse), do what the judge wants to do, and alter the jury’s decision.
Remittitur – Subtracting From a Verdict
But there are two legal vehicles that do allow a judge to alert a judge’s decision. The first is remittitur. Remittitur is where a judge looks at the jury’s decision, and, upon request of a party (usually the Defendant), the judge lowers the jury’s award.
A judge can only lower a jury’s award if the jury’s award is completely unsupported by the evidence. For example, assume that at trial, a victim was injured, but no doctor testifies that the victim will ever need any further medical care related to the injuries. The victim even testifies that he or she feels so good, that he or she doesn’t ever anticipate needing further care.
If the jury were to award a million dollars in future medical care, this would be error—there is no evidence that further medical care would ever be needed. A jury cannot just decide on its own, in the absence of any evidence, to award any element of damages where there is no evidence to support it.
Additur – Adding to a Jury’s Award
Additur is similar, but additur is where a party asks for the court to add an amount to the jury’s finding. In our example, assume that the victim was paralyzed—an injury that absolutely requires ongoing continual medical care—and that there was testimony about the future medical care and treatment that would be needed.
If the jury were to award money for pain and suffering, and past and future lost wages, but no money for future medical care, that could be seen as error. That award would simply make no sense, and the judge could adjust the final award of the jury upwards.
Call the Knoxville personal injury attorneys at Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, to help make sure you present the evidence that you need to present to the jury.