The State Supreme Court of Rhode Island has held that a trial judge improperly ordered a new trial based on the judge’s conclusion that a jury had misjudged the credibility of a witness. In this case, Stacia Aptt filed a lawsuit against Dr. Michael Baaklini alleging that the doctor had misdiagnosed her symptoms. He diagnosed her with a fatal kidney condition; she stated that this diagnosis caused her to suffer severe emotional distress.
At trial, the jury found in favor of the doctor. Aptt moved for a new trial. The trial judge, finding that the jury had come to the incorrect conclusion based on Aptt’s hyperemotional state while testifying at trial, ordered the defendant to agree to additur (added damages) or face a new trial on damages. The defendant appealed.
The State Supreme Court vacated and remanded the case noting that it is the fact finder’s duty to decide whether trial testimony is credible.