Picking Nits on Appeal – Trucking Defendant Fails in Bid for New Trial

Within our court system there are consistent efforts made to keep human mistakes from getting in the way of justice. We try daily to make sure that the verdict comes down on the side of those who have been wronged. Nevertheless, in criminal matters we’d rather let one guilty man go free than to punish a single innocent one.

The same attention to detail is necessary in civil matters. If a mistake is made, we try to correct it before an undeserved verdict comes down. And if we consider a verdict to be wrong, we have the Court of Appeals. If the party found to be at fault can find errors in the original court’s procedure, it is the Court of Appeals that reviews the case in search of mistakes. Sometimes this review results in new trials. Sometimes it does not.

Discovering “reasons” for a new trial sometimes seems to involve what one might call ‘nit picking.’

J. B. Hunt Transp. v. Brown, 236 Ga. App. 634 (1999)

In the case of J. B. Hunt Transp. v. Brown, 236 Ga. App. 634 (1999), defense attorneys tried to get a jury’s verdict overturned by seeking a new trial.

The original trial was held to determine what damages, if any, should be awarded to a person injured in an automobile/semi-truck collision. The trial jury found in favor of the injured party and the attorneys for the defendants, truck driver and the company that employed him, appealed the verdict.

Another Excessive Award Appeal

The defense alleged that the trial judge mistakenly allowed an accident reconstruction expert’s testimony which included audio-visual materials meant to illustrate his testimony. Additionally, the defense argued that the award of damage was excessive and unsupported by the evidence.

Ultimately, the appellate court found that the verdict, based upon the consideration of what the law calls “an enlightened jury,” was neither excessive or shocking. The award of damages was upheld.

Using Computer Video to Replay a Motor Vehicle Accident

In terms of the expert witness and his animated illustration of how the accident happened, the appellate court also upheld the trial court’s judgment. The appellate court opined that an expert witness’ computer video of how the accident happened was substantially correct. The video did not pretend to be an actual re-enactment. The court also held that the expert reconstructionist was not required to physically go to the scene of the accident to form an opinion. (Just like a forensic doctor need not attend the original surgery to draw an opinion and to testify on the damages forceps left within the patient might cause.) It is the job of the jury to evaluate the testimony and the cross examination to determine how much weight to assign that opinion as they would with any other witness.

Finally, the defendant’s attorneys claimed that the trial judge, in the process of instructing or ‘charging’ the jury prior to deliberations, used language directly from the parties’ original pleadings. They believed the instructions thus given to be argumentative. The appellate court found that there was no error in this since the parties had the right to request the charge be given in a different way if that was their wish.

A Defendants Desperation to Find Another Reason to Appeal

In this case, as in so many others, the appellant must work diligently to find cause for an appeal and a second chance to get the verdict they prefer. It occasionally means twisting and torturing otherwise innocent words and phrases to make the process look sinister. Fortunately for the citizens of our State, we have a legal system dedicated to the concept of equality under the law. They generally see through waters thus muddied.

The Millar Law Firm Can Help

If you think you have a case that should be heard in a court of law, we encourage you to call our office today. We are specialists in personal injury law. We only take personal injury cases, and we are well steeped in the laws around such injuries. Call us today and tell us the facts in your case. We will evaluate the facts and help you to decide whether or not you stand to recover in court. You deserve the best possible advocates – The Millar Law Firm.