JSH Reporter Summer 2016 - Page 12

LARGEJURYVERDICTARTICLE 012 YOU’VE BEEN HIT WITH A LARGE JURY VERDICT. NOW WHAT? AUTHOR: Whitney Harvey Excessive jury verdicts are typically challenged through motions for new trial. A new trial may, however, present additional challenges to clients: namely, additional trial expenses, as well as the delayed adjudication of claims. Fortunately, there is a vehicle for contesting excessive verdicts which, if successful, obviates the need for a second trial. Pursuant to Rule 59(i)(1), Ariz.R.Civ.P., the trial court has the authority to reduce a damages award to an amount deemed supported by the evidence (referred to as remittitur). The remitted damages award is, however, conditioned upon the plaintiff’s acceptance. Id. The exercise of the power of remittitur rests within the sound discretion of the trial court. See Spur Feeding Co. v. Fernandez, 106 Ariz. 143, 149, 472 P.2d 12, 18 (1970) (affirming trial court’s remittitur); Duncan v. State, 157 Ariz. 56, 63, 754 P.2d 1160, 1167 (App. 1988) (same). When the trial court orders remittitur, that ruling is accorded “[t]he greatest possible discretion because, like the jury, [the trial court] has had the opportunity to hear the evidence and observe the demeanor of witnesses.” Mammo v. State, 138 Ariz. 528, 533–34, 675 P.2d 1347, 1352–53 (App. 1983). EMAIL: wharvey@jshfirm.com BIO: jshfirm.com/whitneymharvey Although a remitted damages award may be rejected by the opposing party, it is a valuable tool that can be used to achieve a reasonable settlement. Pursuant to Rule 59(i)(1), Ariz.R.Civ.P., the court must order a new trial if the opposing party rejects the proposed remittitur. As noted above, however, it may be disadvantageous for the parties to proceed with a second trial. The risks associated with a second trial are typically shared by the plaintiff. If fault is disputed, the plaintiff bears the risk of not recovering anything during the second trial. Even if fault is not disputed, the plaintiff risks recovering less than the remitted award. A remitted damages award also provides the plaintiff with an objective view of the value of his or her case, which may have been inflated, then sanctioned by a runaway jury. The issue of inflated damages is one that defense counsel face time and time again. Quite often, it is the mistaken evaluation of claims that drives a case to trial, in lieu of settlement. Remittitur provides an objective evaluation of the plaintiff’s damages which, in turn, may facilitate reasonable settlement negotiations.