Juries in medical malpractice cases have wide discretion in determining the amount of a damage award. However, this discretion is not boundless. Judges have the right and, in fact, the obligation to review damage awards and lower them if the judge deems them excessive. In general, the jury’s award is not to be disturbed unless it is entirely disproportionate to the injury sustained.
If a judge determines that a damage award is clearly excessive, he or she should order a “remittitur.” Remittitur describes the power of a court upon a motion for a new trial due to excessive damages rendered by a jury to require the plaintiff to consent to a decrease in the award to a specified amount as a condition for denial of the motion. In other words, remittitur denies a defendant a new trial if a plaintiff consents to a specified reduction in the jury award. Remittitur is designed to bring excessive damages awarded by a jury to the level that the court knows is within the limits of a proper verdict and thereby avoid the necessity of a new trial. Remittitur has long been employed by courts and legislatures to eliminate retrials for excessive verdicts.
Factors that a judge may look to in making a determination as to whether a damage award is excessive are as follows:
In one case in which the medical malpractice defendant sought a reduction of a damage award, the court ruled that the nearly $9 million verdict was not clearly excessive. In the case, the plaintiff was a 38-year-old male who had presented to the hospital for spinal surgery. As a result of the surgeon’s negligence, the patient was rendered a paraplegic. In ruling that the jury award was not excessive, the court reasoned that the jury award did not deviate unreasonably from what would be considered reasonable.
In another case, the court ruled that a jury verdict in the amount of $15 million was clearly excessive. In that case, the plaintiff had suffered a partially paralyzed arm due to her mother’s physician’s failure to order a C-section delivery. In figuring the amount by which to reduce the verdict, the court properly refused to substitute the court’s weighing and balancing for that of the jury. Thus, the court remitted the award to the highest figure that could be supported by the evidence. The appellate court ruled that the court’s method was the most analytically solid approach.
Attorney Scott helped me with my car accident case. I highly recommend Attorney Scott. He was very good about explaining things to me, and I am very happy with the results. Thank you!
Attorney Lafferty handled my car accident vs. pedestrian case. Very happy with the service and representation he provided. Great result!
Attorney Scott was wonderful in his representation of me for my car accident.
I was represented by Joe Hartle, who did a great job with my auto accident claim. Very happy with the end result.
Highly recommended. The attorneys are very knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly. They did an outstanding job representing us after a terrible car accident caused us serious injuries.
Joe Hartle represented us in a wrongful death case involving a semi-truck. He did an outstanding job during a very trying time in our life. Thank you!
Excellent service all the way around. Happy to recommend Lafferty Gallagher & Scott
Very professional and informative. Thank you to Attorney Jon Lafferty.
Excellent service from Mickey Scott. Thank you!
This office is extraordinary in the most professional way! Above and beyond in every professional way. Thank you, Attorney Scott!