(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this dog bite/personal injury case and its proceedings.)
B. Verdict Or Other Decision Against The Law (CCP 657(6)
A motion for new trial may be granted on the ground of insufficiency of the evidence to justify the verdict or other decision against the law. (CCP 657(6).)
In jury trials, each party in fact has two hearings, one before the jury and the other before the court as a thirteenth juror. Norden v. Hartman (1952) 111 CA2d 751, 758. As explained by one court: In weighing and evaluating the evidence, the court is a trier of fact and is not bound by factual resolutions made by the jury. The court may grant a new trial even though there is sufficient evidence to sustain the jury’s verdict on appeal, so long as the court determines the weight of the evidence is against the verdict. Candido v. Huitt (1984) 151 CA3d 918, 923. It is the trial judge’s responsibility on motion for new trial to determine the weight of the evidence: A new trial shall not be granted upon the ground of insufficiency of the evidence to justify the verdict or other decision… unless after weighing the evidence the court is convinced from the entire record, including reasonable inferences therefrom, that the court or jury clearly should have reached a different verdict or decision. (CCP 657.)
In this vicious dog bite case, based upon all of the testimony offered by the plaintiff, including, but not limited to, the inconsistent testimony of Topp and Cantor, coupled with the accuracy of the animal control officer’s testimony, the jury clearly should have reached a different verdict.
This includes the power to consider the credibility of witnesses and to draw reasonable inferences contrary to those drawn by the jury. Valdez v. J.D. Diffenbaugh Co. (1975) 51 CA3d 494, 512; Fountain Valley Chateu Blanc Homeowner’s Ass’n v. Department of Veterans Affairs (1998) 67 CA4th 743, 751. New trial motions allow judges to disbelieve witnesses, reweigh evidence and draw reasonable inferences contrary to that of the jury.
It is not only the right, but the duty of the trial judge to grant a new trial when he or she believes the weight of the evidence to be contrary to the finding of the jury. Tice v. Kaiser Co. (1951) 102 CA2d 44, 46.
The parties are entitled to the judgment of the jury in rendering a verdict, in the first instance; but upon a motion for new trial they are equally entitled to the independent judgment of the judge as to whether such verdict is supported by the evidence. Green v. Soule (1904) 145 C 96, 103.
In this case, the plaintiff, White sustained substantial bodily injury, loss of employment, as well as a plethora of additional economic and non-economic damages, and established convincingly that the defendant was strictly liable and for the jury to return a no liability verdict is a travesty of justice.
Appellate cases rarely second-guess the trial judge’s determination as to the weight of the evidence. If any appreciable conflict exists in the evidence, the trial court’s action will not be disturbed on appeal. Tice v. Kaiser Co., supra., 102 CA2d at 46. This is particularly true where the court’s discretion has been exercised in favor of granting a new trial. Candido v. Huitt (1984) 151 CA3d 918, 923. (See Part 8 of 8.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.