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The Appeals Process and Receiving a New Trial

The legal system is not perfect; courts will make the occasional error. However, in our system, we have many different levels in order to help ensure that if there are errors, the next court in the process will work to correct it. One of the ways that a court can correct an error is to grant a new trial. A motion must be made to the court by one of the parties to signify that they would like to have a new trial. In many cases, the same judge will hear the motion and decide whether to grant a new trial. Sometimes the Court of Appeals will review the motion and send the case back down to the lower court for a “re-do.”

A new trial can only be granted for serious legal errors. These errors can be based on the judge or jury, depending on the type of trial. An obviously incorrect result based on the evidence presented would be a strong candidate as a case for a new trial. Often, new trials will be granted when the jury makes a determination that is completely contrary to the facts that were presented.1
The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit considered a motion for a new trial in February this year. The case involved a group of three victims who were in a car accident with a company car, where the company car hit the victim’s vehicle. The three individuals were treated for injuries relating to the accident. The defendant’s liability was proven at a separate hearing, but the damages to be awarded was left up to the jury.

The jury awarded damages significantly lower than expected. Both sides presented experts to testify regarding the severity of the injuries and the treatments that the victims had to endure. The victim’s personal physicians testified and the defendant’s expert countered their testimony. The defendant’s expert pointed out that the procedures given to the victims were actually not credible treatments in the state of Louisiana and therefore unnecessary.

The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit determined that the reason that the jury awarded damages that were so low was because the jury found the defendant’s expert to be more credible and awarded damages accordingly. The court decided that although the damages were very low if the jury would have believed the plaintiff’s experts, they did match the statements of the defendant’s expert.

In Louisiana, the jury is given great deference and their decisions can only be altered if there is an obvious flaw in their outcome. When deciding whether or not to grant a new trial, the court can consider whether the jury gave one expert too much credit. However, because of the need to balance between the deference granted to the jury and the ability to evaluate an expert, the court is only allowed to overrule the jury in extreme cases where the expert was not credible at all.

The court gives an example of such an occasion where they can overrule rule the jury’s decision. In their example, the defense flew in an from another state and he had a reputation for the testimony that he had provided, which was meant to refute the opposing party’s testimony as well. They granted a new trial because of this unwarranted grant of credibility to this individual. In this case, however, the court did not find any of these circumstances and determined that the jury could have reasonably believed the defendant’s expert testimony.

There are many checks built into our court system and new trial is one that can be used in some occasions. Having the right attorney can help preserve this opportunity and move your case forward.

The attorneys at the Berniard Law Firm have years of experience to help them determine when it is appropriate to file a motion for a new trial. For all of your legal needs, call us toll free at 1-866-574-8005 and we will be happy to help in any way we can.