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New Jersey Supreme Court Gives New Guidance on Remittitur Motions
          The Supreme Court issued a ruling on September 19, 2016 which literally took the law back to where it was – and always had been – before its 2011 decision that encouraged trial judges to include their own “feel of the case” in deciding whether to increase or reduce a jury verdict. In He v. Miller, 207 N.J. 230 (2011), a personal injury case, the Court ruled that a trial judge could rely on his personal knowledge of verdicts as a practicing attorney and jurist, and upon comparable verdicts presented by the parties, in deciding a remittitur motion. That departure from settled law leads the Court to disapprove of that guidance, in Cuevas v. Wentworth Group (N.J. 2016) (“We now conclude that such an approach is not sound in principle or workable in practice.")

          Instead of using comparable verdicts or the trial judge’s own experience to determine the excessiveness of an award, Cuevas instructs that no two cases, nor any trial judge’s personal experience can be said to be precisely like the case under consideration. Therefore, the proper prescription for consideration of remittitur motions is this: “Ultimately, a damage award cannot stand if it is so grossly disproportionate to the injury suffered that it shocks the judicial conscience. . . Suffice it to say, remittitur remains a judicial remedy to correct miscarriages of justice caused by grossly excessive damage awards.”

© October 2016, Law Offices of John C. Lane

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