GHASSAN SALEH v. RIBEIRO TRUCKING, LLC, et al., SC 18515
Judicial District of Hartford
Damages; Remittitur; Whether Trial Court Abused its Discretion in Granting Defendants' Motion for Remittitur. The plaintiff initiated this negligence action against the defendants, seeking to recover compensatory damages for the injuries he sustained in an automobile accident. At trial, the only issue in dispute was the amount of damages to which the plaintiff was entitled. The jury awarded the plaintiff a total of $700,000.31, which included $12,132.31 in economic damages and $687,868 in noneconomic damages. Thereafter, the defendants filed a motion for a remittitur of the noneconomic damages. The trial court granted the motion, finding that the verdict shocked the conscience and ordering a remittitur of $503,608. The plaintiff appealed, claiming that the court improperly ordered a remittitur. The Appellate Court (117 Conn. App. 821) agreed and reversed the trial court's judgment. In doing so, the Appellate Court decided that in resolving the motion for a remittitur, the trial court improperly attempted to apply a mathematical formula to determine what the jury should have awarded to the plaintiff, when it should have instead determined whether the evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, reasonably supported the jury's verdict. Even more problematic, the Appellate Court opined, was the trial court's finding that the plaintiff could be awarded compensation for pain and suffering only for the period that ran from the date of the accident to the date his orthopedic surgeon rated his injuries as permanent. The Appellate Court decided that it was reasonable for the jury to award compensation for pain and suffering beyond the date that the permanency rating was assigned because the plaintiff had testified that he was still in a state of constant pain approximately eighteen months after that date. It further emphasized that the determination of the appropriate amount of noneconomic damages is particularly within the province of the jury and that such determination should stand in the absence of a plainly excessive verdict. Accordingly, the Appellate Court concluded that the trial court abused its discretion by taking away that determination from the jury even though it was not clear that the verdict either contravened the court's instructions or was against the weight of the evidence. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the trial court abused its discretion in granting the motion for remittitur.