Judges have the power to reduce a jury's verdict in an injury case but it is one that is rarely employed. A defendant's effort to get a jury verdict of $275,000 in a car accident case reduced was recently addressed by the Court of Common Pleas of Buck County.
In Bartolewska v. Plappert (C.P. Bucks, August 12, 2010), Judge Baldi refused to reduce a jury's verdict of $275,000 in damages given to a woman injured in a rear end accident. The plaintiff was injured when struck from behind and her doctors testified that her injuries would continue to cause her pain and suffering in the future. She had $6,400 in unpaid medical bills and no lost wages.
The jury awarded the plaintiff $275,000 for past and future pain and suffering. After the verdict, the defendant tried to get the trial judge to reduce the verdict via a mechanism known as "remittitur." Remittitur allows trial judges to reduce verdicts that are shockingly excessive and against the weight of the evidence.
The trial judge in Bartolewska noted the doctors' testimony that plaintiffs injuries would continue in the future and ruled against the remittitur request.
As Erie lawyers who have tried many car accident cases, we can attest that remittitur is a remedy that is rarely employed by judges. It's also interesting to note that insurance companies and their lawyers are quick to oppose any effort to increase a jury's verdict and that such efforts are similarly rarely successful.