In most negligence trials, the jury determines whether the defendant was at fault for the plaintiff’s injuries and, if so, the jury will then determine the amount of damages that is appropriate given the circumstances. However, in some cases, if the trial judge believes that the damages amount the jury comes to is excessive or otherwise inappropriate, the judge can order what is called a “remittur.” A remittur is a reduction in the amount of damages found by the jury. However, when a trial judge orders a remittur, an appellate court has the authority to reverse the trial judge’s decision if the remittur is not supported or if it “destroys the jury’s verdict.”
That is exactly what happened in the recent case, Adams v. Leamon. Adams was riding a motorcycle when he was involved in an accident with Reamon, who was driving a car. The jury determined that Reamon was 60% responsible for the accident and Adams 40%. The jury then deliberated as to the appropriate amount of damages and came to the following conclusion:
- Medical expenses $ 14,731.00
- Pain and suffering — past $ 10,000.00
- Pain and suffering — future $ 120,476.00
- Loss of enjoyment of life — past $ 2,756.50
- Loss of enjoyment of life — future $ 156,204.50
- Disfigurement $ 12,833.00
- Total damages $ 317,000.00
After reducing the damages by the percentage of the Adam’s fault—forty percent—the actual damages awarded were $190,000. In response, Leamon filed a motion for a new trial, or for a remittur, claiming that the damages were excessive. The trial court granted the motion for remittur, noting that “a portion of the damages awarded by the jury [was] excessive.” The court specifically stated that the damages awarded for future pain and suffering and future loss of enjoyment of life “simply are not supported by the evidence.”
The court then reduced each of the two categories to $25,000 in damages, ultimately reducing Adam’s recovery amount to $54,192.
The Court of Appeals Reverses and Orders a New Trial
The court of appeals did not disagree that the damages were excessive. It noted that Adams did not miss a single day of work and had medical bills that were only $14,731, indicating that the injuries were not especially severe. The court of appeals did, however, take issue with the lower court’s failure to document why the damages amount was not appropriate, explaining that further explanation would have aided their inquiry.
Ultimately, the court of appeals did not reverse on the fact that the damages were excessive. Instead, it found that the 71% reduction in total damages “destroyed the jury’s verdict” based on prior case law. Because of this, the court of appeals determined that a new trial should be held, not to determine liability, but to determine the damages amount anew.
Have You Been Involved in a Serious Tennessee Accident?
As you can see, without the clever work of a Tennessee personal injury attorney, the plaintiff’s recovery amount would have been greatly reduced. This is proof that it pays to have an experienced and dedicated attorney at your side throughout the trial process. At Matt Hardin Law, we have a team of dedicated and knowledgeable personal injury attorneys in Nashville and the surrounding area waiting to meet with you to discuss the facts of your case. Click here, or call 615-200-1111 to schedule a free initial consultation today.
See Related Blog Posts:
Tennessee Court of Appeals Decision Further Defines Landowner Liability When Land Is Being Used for Recreational Activity, Nashville Injury Lawyer’s Blog, published March 17, 2014.
Tennessee Court of Appeals Opinion Explains How to Allocate Responsibility in Negligence Cases, Nashville Injury Lawyer’s Blog, published March 31, 2014.