I just won a personal injury case at trial. What happens next?
If either the plaintiff or defendant does not agree with the jury’s decision, they have thirty days from the date that the signed judgment is filed with the Clerk of Court to ask the judge to change the result. The judge has the power to do five things.
First, the judge can set aside the result of the jury entirely and enter a judgment for the other side. This is called a “judgment notwithstanding the verdict.” The judge will do this only if he or she believes that the no reasonable jury could reach the result it did. This is very rare. A judge’s decision to grant or deny a request for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict may be appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
Second, the judge can order a new trial if he or she is dissatisfied with the verdict. The judge does not have to give a reason why he or she is dissatisfied with the verdict. Ordinarily, a judge’s decision to grant a new trial because of dissatisfaction with the jury’s verdict cannot be appealed immediately. If a new trial is ordered by the judge the litigants will then have another trial before a different judge and jury at a later date.
Third, the judge can approve the verdict and make the judgment a final judgment. If that occurs, the case is over unless there is an appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
Fourth, the judge can increase the amount of the verdict. This is called an “additur.” The judge will do this if the judge feels the amount awarded by the jury was unreasonably low. This rarely occurs. If a verdict amount is increased, the defendant can accept the increased amount and pay the judgment, accept the increased amount under protest and appeal the increase to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, or have a new trial before a different jury at a later time.
Fifth, the judge can decrease the amount of the verdict. This is called a “remittitur.” The judge will do this is the judge feels the amount awarded by the jury was unreasonably high. This too is rare. If a verdict is reduced, the plaintiff can accept the reduced amount, accept the reduced amount under protest and appeal the reduction, or have a new trial before a different jury at a different time.