Medical Malpractice Motion 19 - defendant's motion for remittitur of judgment
Finally, even if the trial had been free of these errors, the jury's verdict vividly illustrates its inability to comprehend the evidence---if not an outright refusal to properly consider it. Despite the parties' stipulation that the plaintiff's special damages did not include the hospital charges for the initial ten days of the decedent's hospitalization, which the decedent would have incurred regardless of any negligence, the jury's award for such damages was $428,519.21---an amount that exceeds the stipulated amount by exactly $300,000, arbitrarily refusing to accept the parties' stipulation on this point and increasing it by an amount unsupported by the evidence and at odds with the plaintiffs' counsel's admission. (See Exhibit E.)
Worse, the jury's refusal to apply this stipulation renders its entire verdict questionable, demonstrating it to be an apparent product of passion and prejudice. To the extent that the verdict exceeds both the proven amount and the reasonable amount of damages, it is a compelling illustration of the jury's disregard for the evidence. At the very minimum, a remittitur in the amount of $300,000 is necessary---but more appropriately, this Court should order a new trial, either on damages alone or on liability as well.
The facts of this case illustrate that the decedent was 75 years old and suffering a host of medical problems that complicated his diagnosis and treatment, in addition to the condition of which he eventually died. According to the plaintiffs, these defendants' treatment of him caused him to die 27 days after coming to the hospital emergency room; much of that time he remained unconscious. On these facts, there is no basis for an award exceeding $4 million; even the plaintiffs' counsel acknowledged this, asking the jury for substantially less.
In reviewing a jury's award of damages, a court has an obligation to carefully scrutinize the record to determine whether the amount of the verdict is so large as to indicate passion and prejudice. Brown v. Arco Petroleum Prods. Co., 195 Ill. App. 3d 563, 571--72 (1st Dist. 1989). The lower court's verdict should be reversed when the findings of the jury are motivated by passion or prejudice or appear arbitrary or unsubstantiated by the evidence. Schmidt v. Ameritech Illinois, 2002 WL 480887, *6 (Ill. App. 1st Dist. March 29, 2002), citing Maple v. Gustafson, 151 Ill. 2d 445, 454 (1992).
The decision in Brown is particularly instructive. In that wrongful-death case, the Appellate Court found that the record lacked any evidence to support an award of $2 million, calling for a new trial. Notably, it reached this conclusion despite evidence that the decedent had enjoyed a close and loving relationship with his family, including those members on whose behalf the action was brought. Brown, 195 Ill. App. 3d at 572. In the absence of sufficient evidence, it held, we must conclude that the amount of the award indicates that it was the result of passion and prejudice. Id. The court reversed the jury's verdict in its entirety, ordering a new trial on all issues.
Alternatively, when a trial court determines that a damages award exceeds the amount of damages that was proven, it may order a remittitur. Bart v. Union Oil Co., 185 Ill. App. 3d 64,70 (3d Dist. 1989). A remittitur is necessary if the jury's verdict exceeds the amount of the damages that the plaintiffs have proven. Cokinis v. Maywood-Proviso State Bank, 81 Ill. App. 3d 1057, 1067 (1st Dist. 1980). When the jury verdict is excessive, the trial judge may not allow the verdict to stand but must act to correct the injustice, and the failure to do so is itself error. Haid v. Tingle, 219 Ill. App. 3d 406, 411 (1st Dist. 1991) (McMorrow, J.). Even where the verdict concerns a matter that is less susceptible to precise financial calculation, damages awards are improper to the extent that they exceed what the evidence has shown. See Richardson v. Chapman, 175 Ill. 2d 98, 112-13 (1997). The only alternative to a remittitur in a case where the verdict exceeds the damages properly proven is for the trial judge to order a new trial. Id., citing Bart, 185 Ill. App. 3d 64, and Briante v. Link, 184 Ill. App. 3d 812 (1st Dist. 1989).
The present case meets this description. The stipulation as to the special damages should have made it simple for the jury to return an accurate verdict on that element of damages once they decided to hold for the plaintiff. In disregarding that stipulation and awarding unproven additional special damages, the jury demonstrated a disturbing confusion about what the evidence had shown and what the jury' s duties were. By arbitrarily increasing a stipulated portion of the plaintiffs' damages by an amount of $300,000, the jury revealed either a bias or a fundamental misunderstanding about the evidence presented to it. Indeed, if it was unable to understand the purpose of the stipulation concerning the medical bills---as the verdict form conclusively proves---then its conclusion as to the remaining aspects of damages are equally suspect.
The defendants are entitled to a fair trial on the evidence presented, rather than an arbitrarily determined verdict by a jury that was provably tainted by passion and prejudice in reaching its decision. That verdict renders the entire proceeding a sham, and at a minimum, it calls for a remittitur; even more appropriately, it requires a new trial.
Individually, each of these errors unfairly prejudiced the defense, and cumulatively, they render the jury's verdict an affront to the notion of justice. This Court is properly situated to correct them by ordering a new trial---and in so doing, it would save the time and expense that all parties and the judicial system will be forced to expend in an appeal. The defendants therefore respectfully request that this Court vacate the judgment and verdict rendered in the first trial and enter judgment n.o.v., order a new trial, or enter a remittitur.