The following blog entry is written from a defendant’s position after a jury verdict for plaintiff. Reviewing this kind of briefing should help potential plaintiffs and clients better understand how parties in personal injury cases present such issues to the court.
(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this bus accident/brain injury case and its proceedings.)
PROCEDURES FOR GRANTING A NEW TRIAL
In listing the grounds for granting a new trial, the court should parallel the language of Civil Code of Procedure section 657 as closely as possible. (Mercer v. Perez (1968) 68 Cal.2d 104, 111.) The court must specify in writing the grounds for its decision to grant a new trial, either by minute order or by order signed by the court and filed by the clerk. (Code Civ. Proc. §§ 657, 660.)
In addition to specifying the grounds supporting its decision, the court must specify its reasons for granting a new trial on each of the grounds stated in its order. (Code Civ. Proc. § 657; Mercer v. Perez, supra, 68 Cal.2d at 111.) The specification of reasons must be in writing, oral statements will not suffice. (Stevens v. Parke, Davis & Co. (1973) 9 Cal.3d 51, 62.)
If the court’s specification of reasons is not contained in the order granting the new trial, the 10-day period for filing a separate specification of reasons runs from the date the minute order granting a new trial is entered (even if written order is later signed and filed). (Code Civ. Proc. § 657.) The 10-day period may extend beyond the 60-day period for ruling on a new trial motion. (Code Civ. Proc. §§ 657, 660.)
The court is not permitted to direct any attorney to prepare the specification (Code Civ. Proc. § 657), and may not adopt by reference the moving party’s arguments in the points and authorities. However, the court may borrow from the memorandum in support of new trial by quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing the identical position asserted in the memorandum. (See Eltolad Music, Inc. v. April Music, Inc. (1983) 139 Cal.App.3d 697, 707.) To satisfy the specification of reasons requirement, it will be sufficient if the judge . . . furnished a concise but clear statement of the reasons why he finds one or more grounds of the motion to be applicable to the case before him. (Mercer v. Perez, supra, 68 Cal.2d at p. 115.) If the ground for new trial is excessive damages, the specification of reasons must briefly identify the portion of the record which convinces the judge that the court or jury clearly should have reached a difference verdict or decision. (Stevens v. Parke, Davis, & Co., supra, 9 Cal.3d at p. 60.)
The court’s power to rule on a new trial expires 60 days after filing of the first notice of intention to move for a new trial or service of written notice of entry of judgment, whichever occurs first. (See Code Civ. Proc. § 660.)
For the reasons set forth above, the court should grant a new trial. At the very least, there should be a substantial remittitur of the damage award.
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.