What is a Remittitur and How May it Affect My Case?

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.

Remittitur Process

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.


Getting Along with Paralegals

Bri didn’t know what to expect when she hired an attorney.  After meeting with her attorney a few times, her attorney seemed very pleasant and perfectly capable of handling her case.  The attorney was very reassuring that Bri had a good case and told Bri that her paralegal would be contacting Bri within the next few days for some documents that would be pertinent to the case.  Bri wasn’t sure what a paralegal was.  Was it like a secretary?  Why was the attorney herself not contacting Bri directly?  Is this a normal practice among lawyers?

Although many people might think of a paralegal’s role as that of an assistant to the attorney, this view does not take into account all of the duties that a paralegal may perform.  A paralegal is qualified by their education and training to do various tasks delegated by the attorney, as an assistant would, but essentially, the work a paralegal does is work that the attorney would do in the absence of the paralegal.  Similarly, a paralegal, like an attorney, is subject to ethical standards and practices set forth by the American Bar Association.

Paralegals can have a large swath of duties they have to attend to, many of which can affect your case.  For example, a paralegal may be responsible for conducting a client interview.  This interview might include taking notes, locating witnesses, and creating a memo detailing all of the information that was obtained in the interview.

A paralegal can also be charged with helping the attorney prepare for the trial by conducting legal research and accumulating relevant case information.  This research could include completing legal documents like subpoenas, pleadings, complaints, deposition notices, pretrial orders and other things.  Often, this task can will involve the client.  The client will help in providing documents or other materials that may be important to the case.

Because a paralegal is responsible for many crucial tasks to a client’s case, it is vital that a client is compliant and does so promptly.  One of the common complaints among paralegals and legal assistants is the sluggish pace that clients sometimes have in returning important documents and completing other paralegal requests.  The slowness of the client can place a strain on the relationship between the paralegal and the client.

For a client, it is important to understand that the paralegal is acting in his/her best interest.  When the paralegal asks for something, it is because the completion of the task will help his/her case progress.  If a client fails to comply with some of the information that a paralegal requests, it can slow down the case which could result in higher attorney fees or other costly problems.

All in all, getting along with a paralegal, like any relationship, is a two-way street.  If the client does his/her part and the paralegal does his/her part, everything should run smoothly.  It is the paralegal’s job to get all the necessary paperwork completed and communicate such needs with the client.  For Bri, many of her questions regarding her Personal Injury Utah case were eventually answered as she began to work with the paralegal.  Much of her initial worry dissipated as her case began to progress.

Thanks to authors at The Advocates for insight into Paralegals and their contributions

Deposition Tips For Lawyers and Witnesses

A deposition is used to obtain pre-trial sworn testimony from potential witnesses in a lawsuit as part of the discovery process. A lawyer will usually lead the deposition in question-answer format to gather necessary information for the case. Testimony can provide the basis for trial, or may even lead straight to a settlement. Because of the importance of a deposition, the lawyer and witness should be as prepared as possible. Below are some tips to keep in mind when approaching a deposition.

For Lawyers

  1. Determine Goals

Before the deposition, determine your expectations of the witness. You should begin the deposition by listing what you want the witness to admit or provide information about. A complex case with more facts may require an expansive list.

  1. Ask Questions in a Clear Manner

When questioning the witness, you should be clear and specific about what exactly you are asking. A court reporter such as the court reporter San Francisco locals are familiar with are logging everything verbatim. Your goal is to make it easy for the witness to provide a direct answer. Using a double negative question or asking multiple questions in one can create confusion. This can cause an unclear and confusing response. Try and keep the questions short and direct to produce the most effective answers.

  1. Listen Closely

It’s important that a lawyer listens closely to a witness’s response. Sometimes a witness may not fully answer a question, or may leave out vital information. Try and determine any missing or new information, as well as any weaknesses presented by the witness or in their answers.

  1. Avoid Excessive Information

During a deposition, a lawyer reads documents, and other information regarding the case, to the witnesses. Sometimes the information read can be excessive, taking up too much time. This can be an issue for all parties involved if time is limited. Instead, it would be efficient to pick out key points of a document to read off. Direct information, questions and answers are likely to result in an overall more effective and efficient deposition.


For Witnesses

  1. Answer clearly and honestly

Your answers in a deposition have a huge impact on the entire case, especially because they will often be used if the case goes to trial. Even if by accident, if you are not careful with how you answer a question, your answers can be deemed as inconsistent testimony, and ruin your credibility in the case. It is, therefore, extremely important to answer as clear as possible, and with complete honesty. Remember, you are under oath, even in a deposition.

  1. Don’t Rush Your Answers

Because a deposition can cause a lot of pressure and be a very emotional experience, it is common for witnesses to blurt out an answer. Nervous and impulsive responses can be harmful to your testimony. Following a question, it is advised to take a moment to carefully think over the question and your response.

  1. Avoid Speculation

Questions in a deposition may require speculation, assumptions or guessing. If you cannot answer a question with certainty, it is okay to answer with ‘I don’t know.’ Conjecture in a deposition can ruin credibility, especially if it is wrong, because then you may be deemed unreliable by the opposing lawyer. Even a correct assumption can reduce the credibility of the statement.

  1. Practice and Prepare

The best way to avoid mistakes in a deposition is to have a practice deposition beforehand. You can review questions that might be asked and rehearse the way in which you will answer them. When doing so, you should practice pausing after every question, as well as keeping composure throughout the entirety of the deposition. Practice is the best way to build confidence, which is vital to a successful testimony.

Thanks to authors at Capital Reporting Company for their insight into Deposition.

Standing to Sue

The general rule is that standing to sue, which is rooted in the traditional understanding of a case or controversy, prevents usurpation of the powers of the political branches of government by the judiciary.  It does this by the requirement that plaintiffs have a personal stake in every claim they make to invoke the court’s jurisdiction.  Article III of the U.S. Constitution has been interpreted to require that a plaintiff who seeks compensation have suffered an injury in fact which is caused by some action or failure to act of the defendant, and that the plaintiff can be compensated for the injury by something which can be awarded by a court.  If there is no standing, then a case should be dismissed.

The United States Supreme Court recently provided some guidance to lawyers and parties as to how to apply that rule to a case where a developer bought land to create a housing subdivision; he later sued the town in state court, claiming that it had obstructed his plan to develop the land.  The Town removed the case to federal district court, which dismissed the developer’s claim. On appeal, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court, and the case was set for trial.  While awaiting trial, a real estate development company tried to intervene in the case alleging that it had paid the developer and that it thus had an equitable interest in the property, and that the developer would not adequately represent its interests.

The district court denied the motion to intervene, holding that an equitable interest does not give the court standing over such a dispute.  The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals again reversed, holding that an intervenor of right is not required to meet Article III’s standing requirements.

In Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates, Inc., — U.S. —, 137 S. Ct. 1645, 1648, 2017 U.S. LEXIS 3555, at *5 (Jun. 5, 2017), the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the trial court and disagreed with the court of appeals.  It held that an intervenor must meet the requirements of Article III standing if the it pursues a claim not originally requested by the land developer.  It noted that the rule where there are multiple plaintiffs is that at least one plaintiff must have standing to seek each form of relief requested in the complaint.  It then extended that rule and made new law, holding that principle applies to intervening parties.

The rule from now on is that for any type of relief being sought in court there must be a litigant with standing; it does not matter whether that party is a plaintiff or an intervenor. This means that an intervenor must demonstrate Article III standing when it seeks relief beyond that originally requested by the plaintiff, even when both the plaintiff and the intervenor seek separate money judgments in their own names (198 L. Ed. 2d at 70). The U.S. Supreme Court did not decide whether the real estate development company was seeking different relief from that sought by the developer himself, leaving that for the court of appeals and the district court.