Remittitur and Additur
In a lawsuit that has a jury, the jury’s word is generally final. After all, if parties could ask courts to overturn, or second guess juries, there would be no point in having a jury system, and there would be no finality in court decisions.
However, the legal system also recognizes that jurors are lay people, and the court system can be imperfect, and that there must be a way for a legal professional—specifically, the judge—to have some oversight to make sure that what a jury does is not completely out of the bounds of legality.
Changing the Verdict After Trial
If a jury makes a decision that a party thinks is legally improper, the party can certainly appeal the case. However, the appeal usually won’t involve asking the appellate court to second guess the jury. That is a very difficult argument to make. Additionally, appeals can be time consuming and expensive.
In the trial court, after a jury renders its verdict, if a party believes that the jury has done something improper, it can ask the court to lower or raise the jury’s verdict. This is called remittitur and additur.
Additur asks the court to add to the jury’s ultimate verdict. You cannot simply argue that the jury gave you less money or fewer damages than you need. The argument must be that the verdict is legally insufficient given the evidence presented.
For example, imagine that you present a case where a contractor broke a contract with your company. Because of that breach, you show that you have sustained $100,000 in damages. At trial, the jury agrees with you, finds in your favor and against the contractor…and then awards you $1 as damages. It would be possible to argue that there was absolutely no evidence to support a damage award of $1.
Remittitur lowers a jury’s verdict. Remittitur is often used in cases where verdicts can be excessively high, such as where the jury acts on passion or emotion, instead of the facts presented at trial. Imagine a situation where a business has put on no evidence that it will have continuing, ongoing financial losses from a breach of a business contract, yet the jury still awards $1 million in future business losses anyway. That decision would have no basis in the evidence presented at trial.
Remittitur can also be used to “fix” an error at trial. For example, if a piece of evidence was shown to the jury, and it should not have been, instead of having to appeal the case, the judge may opt (on motion by one of the parties) to simply lower the verdict amount.
In cases that involve emotional damages, or pain and suffering, where there is no way to calculate damages, it can be more difficult to ask the court to lower a jury’s verdict.
Questions about a business law case? Our West Palm Beach business litigation lawyers can help. Call Pike & Lustig, LLP, at 561-291-8298. We try cases in court for businesses, employees, independent contractors, and anyone else who has a business related case.