Court reporters have to be aware of numerous aspects of trials in order to do their job well. Even in situations where they aren’t directly reporting on certain procedures, it is helpful to be informed so they can apply that knowledge to other issues. Here we will discuss a little known procedure called remittitur.
Most states have certain mechanisms that allow a judge to change a jury’s verdict in special cases. Remittitur is a procedure that gives a judge the ability to decrease the amount of damages a plaintiff is awarded by a jury in a personal injury case. Remittitur is not easy to avoid, but having an experienced personal injury lawyer can help soften the blow remittitur might deliver.
Remittitur is meant to allow the judge to check a jury’s decision and a judge is considered as the 13th juror in a case. The judge then independently reviews the evidence of the case to determine if the verdict is satisfactory. Even if the jury makes a decision, no verdict is legitimate until the judge approves it.
Remittitur or New Trial?
The judge may suggest a remittitur if their dissatisfaction is only with the amount of the award for damages. Otherwise, any disagreement with a verdict will result in a new trial for the case. If the plaintiff accepts the remittitur, the judge will reduce the award for damages to an amount that they think is more acceptable. This option is more cost effective and efficient than pursuing a new trial.
A trial judge can suggest changes to the verdict even if the verdict is considered to be within the range of reasonableness. This range is established by the ceiling and floor of awards that can be met by the material proof of the case. A judge must consider a few factors when establishing those limits:
- Severity and nature of the injuries suffered;
- Emotional damages like pain and suffering;
- Past and foreseeable medical expenses;
- Lost wages;
- Inability to work resulting in loss of earning capability;
- Age and life expectancy.
Amount of Damages
A decision of remittitur depends wholly on whether the amount awarded to a plaintiff is excessive. First, an amount must be designated to determine what is beyond a reasonable amount. One way a judge may determine excessiveness is by referencing similar cases and their verdicts after hearing a jury’s decision. This will help establish their definition of “reasonable” and provide justification for a possibly confused plaintiff.
A plaintiff may accept the remittitur, ask for a new trial and refuse the decision, or accept and protest the remittitur in a higher court. If you are a plaintiff or a court reporter seeking more information about remittiturs, contact our law offices today.
Thanks to authors at Veritext for their insight into Court Reporting and the Remittitur procedure.