NEW JERSEY COURT SETS NEW STANDARD FOR REDUCING JURY VERDICTS
A careless driver plows his car into your car. Or maybe a neighbor’s dog bites you. Perhaps you trip and fall on a wet floor in a store. However it happened, you suffer a severe injury.
Say you live in Hawthorne. You hire a local personal injury lawyer to sue the responsible party. Accordingly, the personal injury lawyer files a lawsuit in the Passaic County Courthouse.
In the meantime, you receive medical treatment. You receive therapy near your Hawthorne home. However, despite the treatment and therapy, you still have permanent pain and physical restrictions.
The trial day comes. Your spouse drives you to the courthouse from your Hawthorne home. Your personal injury lawyer explains to the jury what happened. From the witness stand, you describe the accident. You tell the jury about your pain and suffering. Your doctor testifies as to your treatment. The doctor also opines on the future medical problems that you will face.
The personal injury lawyer representing you gives an impassioned closing argument. The jury retires to deliberate.
After several hours, the jurors return. They have awarded you a substantial amount of money.
But now the defense lawyer makes a new motion to the judge. He claims the verdict that the jury returned is excessive. He asks the judge to reduce it.
Is such a reduction possible under the law? In theory, the answer is yes.
NOT EASY FOR DEFENSE TO REDUCE VERDICT
But, not to worry. In order for the defense to reduce you verdict, they must make a very strong showing. Under the standard recently set by the New Jersey Supreme Court, the defense has a high hurdle to overcome.
A judge can’t reverse a verdict merely because it seems excessive to the judge personally. Or even if similar cases that the judge participated in resulted in lesser awards.
Basically, to lower the verdict, the defense must prove that the award is one no rational jury could have returned. One that is so grossly excessive, so wide of the mark and pervaded by a sense of wrongness, that it shocks the judicial conscience.
It is rare that the defense will be able to meet this high standard. So your verdict will very likely stand.
Even in the rare case where a judge reduces a personal injury verdict, the victim has the option of choosing a new trial, rather than accepting the reduced verdict.
HOW TO AVOID HAVING YOUR VERDICT REDUCED
It is crucial to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your case. That is the best means to obtain the highest possible award. And to make that award stick.