Anderson - Torts - Falls 2009

Anderson - Torts - Falls 2009 - Trial Court Procedure in...

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Trial Court Procedure in Tort Cases I. Defendant’s first response to plaintiff’s complaint a. Motion to Dismiss – if the law affords no relief (even if facts of case are true) motion to dismiss must be granted a.i. Motion to dismiss is directed solely at what the plaintiff has claimed b. Motion for Summary Judgment – a party’s request that a judge enter a judgment in their favor before the case is submitted to the jury or after contrary verdict, b/c there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis on which the jury can find for the other party b.i. Motion for Summary Judgment – D brings more facts to court’s attention b.i.1. Evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to non-moving party II. Case goes to trial. P’s lawyer presents his case in chief. a. D files for directed verdict – this is a ruling from trial judge that takes the case from the jury b/c the evidence will permit only one outcome (reasonable minds could not differ) III. Once all evidence has been heard from each side, either side may request a motion for directed verdict IV. Closing arguments. Jury instructions given. (Usually most claims of error come in this area.) V. When verdict announced, losing side can move for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV). This is a judgment entered for one party even though the jury verdict decided for the other party. a. D can request remittitur motion – asserts damages award is too high. If granted, P must choose to lower award or go for a new trial. b. P can ask for additur motion – asserts damages are too low. If granted, D must agree to a higher award or go for a new trial. VI. Why would a judge deny a direct verdict motion and then grant a JNOV? a. Mainly a pragmatic move. If judge allows a directed verdict and appeals court disagrees, then case has to be retried. However, if judge grants a JNOV and appeals court overturns, you just change the verdict. VII. Major stages at which trial judges make tort-law mistakes: a. Granting or denying motions to dismiss b. Granting or denying motions for summary judgment c. Permitting improper statements by counsel during jury selection, opening statement, or closing arguments d. Excluding relevant evidence or admitting improper evidence e. Granting or denying motions for directed verdict f. Erroneous jury instructions g. Granting or denying motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict h. Granting or denying motions for new trial, additurs, or remittiturs Intentional Torts A plaintiff can only recover if the D intentionally invaded the specific interest that is protected by the tort. Plaintiff has burden of introducing evidence that will tend to prove every element of the tort (prima facie case) in order to avoid a directed verdict.
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