State Supreme Court Reverses Trial Judge’s Order of New Trial

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.

A trial judge may not substitute his or her opinion for the jury’s. Here, the high court found that reasonable minds could have differed regarding the outcome of the case. Moreover, the court found that the trial judge’s order was not based on a finding of a grave lack of evidentiary support, which would have justified a new trial.

Therefore, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island held that the trial judge had erred in replacing the jury’s determination with his own opinion on witness credibility.

Aptt v. Cedarz Medical and Cosmedics, Inc., 2018 WL 328203 (R.I. Jan. 9, 2018).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical malpractice lawsuits, wrongful death cases, traumatic brain injury lawsuits and birth trauma injury cases for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Maywood, Vernon Hills, Bellwood, Melrose Park, Stone Park, North Chicago, Bensenville, Gurnee, Cary, Grayslake, Barrington, Worth, Inverness, Northlake, River Grove, Elmwood Park, Chicago (Galewood, Belmont Craigin, North Austin, Kelvyn Park, Kilbourn Park, Mayfair, Albany Park, Ravenswood Manor, Lincoln Square, Little India, Pulaski Park, Hollywood Park, West Edgewater, Rogers Park), Mundelein, Northfield, Naperville and South Holland, Ill.

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