There are four main categories why a new trial may be granted:
- The weight of the evidence goes against the jury verdict.
- The conduct of the trial or jury deliberations were impartial (process errors creating a miscarriage of justice).
- Seriously erroneous.
- There is newly discovered evidence (rare).
Rule 59(b) says that a motion for a new trial must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment.
When determining whether to grant a new trial, the judge may weigh the credibility of the witnesses to see if a miscarriage occurred. Note that this is different than judgment. Instead, the judge is trying to determine if they need to start over.
Motion for New Trial Because Weight of the Evidence Errors
Trivedi v. Cooper
LEXIS 18715 (S.D.N.Y. 1996).
Trivedi is the plaintiff who won a jury verdict of 700,000 at trial. The defendant is seeking a JMOL or in the alternative a new trial or a remitter.
Is JMOL appropriate? What about a new trial (Was the weight of the evidence so much in error to merit a new trial)? If not, what about a remitter? If a new trial is to be granted, will the court consider the liability and damages, or just damages?
- Waived if not raised earlier (see rule 50(b)).
- If a reasonable jury could have found in that way, then the court will not discredit the jury.
- A new trial may be granted if the “verdict was against the weight of the evidence” resulting in a seriously erroneous result.
- When considering a new trial, the court weighs the evidence.
- Courts are instructed to refrain from setting aside the verdict.
- The plaintiff has a choice to reduced damages or a new trial.
- First, the court must determine if the damages were excessive.
- The damages must shock the conscience.
- Second, if damages are excessive, they should be reduced to the highest amount possible that does not shock the conscience.
New Trial v. Just damages
- Only a question if the plaintiff chooses the new trial option.
- Simply need to determine if liability is separate from damages.
First, JMOL is not merited for any of the counts. Second, a new trial is not granted for the hostile environment count. Third, the damages awarded were excessive, requiring a remitter. Fourth, the plaintiff can chose to either accept the remitter or a new trial for both liability and damages.
This case is based on the alleged discrimination of Cooper against Trivedi. Here, Trivedi argues that Cooper had used racial slurs against him, denied him promotions, and prevented him from using company computes and the library (Trivedi was a research scientist). Consequently, Trivedi became paranoid that anything he said would be misinterpreted against him. Because of this paranoia, meetings between the parties resulted in Trivedi taping his mouth closed and plugging his ears.
Additionally, the defendant presented evidence to show that access to the computers were not blocked and that Trivedi suffered from a mental illness which created the paranoia (shown by experts). Trivedi failed to rebut that expert evidence.
Because of the relations, Trivedi sued for hostile work environment, failure to promote, and retaliation.
First, Cooper failed to properly raise a JMOL for the hostility count and thus waived the right to make the motion. Additionally, for the other two claims, the jury could find that the defendant failed to promote and had retaliated. Thus, JMOL is not appropriate for any of the claims.
Second, a new trial here should not be granted. Although there is a significant dispute as to whether the weight of the evidence is in great error, the court is averse to ruling against the jury. Particular details that showed the evidence was not supporting include the expert testimony that was not disputed by the plaintiff.
Finally (I won’t get into the choice between new trial on all issues or just damages), a remitter is appropriate. Here, there are no cases that show damages could have reached 700,000. Instead, 50,000 is the high number that would not shock the conscience based on the available evidence. Consequently, the plaintiff should choose to accept the remitter for 50,000 or have a new trial testing both the liability and the damages.
A party is not able to appeal a ruling for a new trial. You can only appeal a final judgment. Again, note that a new trial is not a grant of a judgement. The only exception to the final judgment rule are interlocutory appeals (very rare). These come from preliminary injunctions (Rule 65(a)) and Temporary Restraining Orders (Rule 65(b)). The purpose of these orders are to freeze the parties from taking any action until trial occurs. If these injunctions or orders need to be appealed because of an emergency (pending destruction of a historically valuable home), then the appeal may be granted.
The content contained in this article may contain inaccuracies and is not intended to reflect the opinions, views, beliefs, or practices of any academic professor or publication. Instead, this content is a reflection on the author’s understanding of the law and legal practices.