In personal injury law in Colorado and other states, when a jury renders a verdict finding the defendant liable for damages in a civil case, the jury awards an amount of monetary compensation to the victim. If either side strongly disagrees with the amount of compensation awarded, one way to address this is through additur or remittitur. Using a motion for additur or remittitur to seek an increase or decrease in the jury award is an option that addresses an unjust judgment while conserving the court’s resources and time by saving the need for a second trial in extreme cases of unjust court awards.
Understanding Additur in Civil Cases
A motion for additur is used in state justices systems, but not allowed in federal courts due to 7th amendment protections. Additur is the request to increase the amount of money awarded to a plaintiff when the defendant was found liable for damages. Personal injury attorneys cannot file a motion for additur lightly, or simply because they feel their client should have gained a higher amount of monetary compensation. Filing a motion of additur is only an accepted legal practice when an attorney in a civil court case believes a jury delivered a verdict that’s a gross miscarriage of justice for one of the following reasons:
- The jury misunderstood the judge’s directions or made a calculation error
- The jury acted in a discriminatory manner in reaching their decision
- If an attorney feels there was corruption present during the court process
A party filing a motion for additur must prove that the amount of the jury award is grossly inadequate for the damages in the case or that there was a significant injustice.
If a judge declines a plaintiff’s appeal for a new trial, additur is typically a condition of the denial. A defendant in a case must agree to the motion for additur rather than undergoing a second trial.
What is a Motion for Remittitur?
There is good reason the law describes justice as a balanced scale, since most actions in the court system have counteractions. Remittitur is the opposite of additur. Remittitur is the process a defendant in a civil action uses to seek a reduction in the amount of damages awarded by a jury verdict. When the defense in a lawsuit loses their case, they may file a motion for remittitur if they feel the amount the jury awarded the victim is unreasonable. In some cases, a judge may agree that the amount awarded is beyond reason under the circumstances or that the jury was “inflamed by sympathy”—a common complaint from the defense and judges alike. If the judge agrees to a remittitur, the plaintiff in the case must either choose to accept the lesser amount or demand a new trial. Once a plaintiff agrees to the remittitur, they lose their right to file an appeal.
Ideally, a judge only grants a motion of remittitur when they believe the amount of a jury award to be so excessive as to be a gross miscarriage of justice.
Unlike additur, which is allowed only in state courts where the 7th amendment doesn’t apply, a motion for remittitur is allowed in federal court cases.
Additur or Remittitur in Your Civil Court Case
If you think the jury in your tort law case has reached a verdict that’s a gross miscarriage of justice, ask your lawyer about the possibility of filing a motion for additur or remittitur.