The Verdict and Post Trial Motions in Personal Injury Litigation
Now it is the jury’s turn to get active. After possibly years of waiting, countless phone calls, letters, doctors’ visits, consultations with your lawyer, pretrial preparation, and the grueling drama of the trial, the jury finally has the case, and your legal fate, in its hands. The answer to the question, How much? may be just minutes away.
Sometimes the verdict comes back quickly, and sometimes there are hours or even days to agonize while waiting for the jury to return with the verdict. When it does, the jury foreman announces the decision and the trial is at an end.
Either the plaintiff or defendant may file a motion for a new trial after the jury has returned its verdict. This action is appropriate when the verdict was against the weight of the evidence or a party has suffered injustice or has been denied substantial rights. Typically, a party must move for a new trial to correct errors or irregularities during the course of the trial. If he or she fails to do so, the court may rule that the issue is waived.
A motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict may be filed on the theory that the verdict should, as a matter of law, have been in favor of the moving party. This might be based upon the party’s belief that there was not sufficient evidence to submit the case to a jury. For example, if the evidence shows that the plaintiff rear-ended the defendant, but the jury, nevertheless, returns a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, the court may grant a motion in favor of the defendant notwithstanding the verdict. This motion differs from the motion for a new trial in that the former seeks an actual verdict in favor of the moving party while the latter seeks a whole new trial.
Defendant’s counsel may file a motion for remittutur when he or she believes that the verdict is so excessive and unconscionable as to shock the conscience of the court. Plaintiff may move for additur to increase an inadequate jury award.
Either party may move for an award of attorney’s fees due to dilatory, obdurate, or vexatious conduct. For example, if one of the attorneys prolonged the trial through frivolous objections, multiple witnesses who testified about matters already sufficiently established, or otherwise was particularly discourteous to the other party or his or her attorney, the court may award attorney’s fees to the moving party.
The plaintiff may also file a motion for delay damages to assess interest on top of the jury’s verdict. This would be particularly appropriate when the defendant unnecessarily delayed the onset of the trial through various litigation tactics. In some jursidictions, delay damages may be awarded even if the trial began promptly. You should check your local rules since delay damages can be very significant.