Tennessee Court Discusses Standard for Granting a New Trial in a Car Accident Case

Not all car accidents involve two vehicles. Instead, in many cases, a car accident will, unfortunately, involve a car and a pedestrian. In many lawsuits in which a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle, the driver of the vehicle will attempt to evade liability by arguing that the pedestrian caused the collision, and if the jury finds the defendant driver’s evidence to be compelling, the pedestrian may be denied compensation. This was shown in a recent Tennessee car accident case in which the court denied a plaintiff’s motion for a new trial after the jury found in favor of the defendant.  If you were struck by a vehicle, it is in your best interest to retain an experienced Tennessee car accident attorney to help you protect your rights.

Factual Background and Procedure of the Case

Reportedly, the plaintiff visited Tennessee as a tourist in 2005. During her stay, she jogged along the side of a highway. She decided to cross the highway, and while she was crossing, she was struck by a vehicle driven by the defendant. The plaintiff suffered severe injuries and subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant, asserting a negligence claim. Following a trial, the jury found that the plaintiff was 80% at fault, and the defendant was 20% at fault for the accident. The plaintiff subsequently filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence. The court denied the plaintiff’s motion, after which she appealed.

The Standard for Setting Aside a Jury Verdict

Under Tennessee law, a court will only set aside a jury’s findings of fact if there is no material evidence in support of the jury’s verdict. A trial judge is tasked with acting as the thirteenth juror and independently weighing the evidence to determine if it is in favor of the jury verdict. If the trial judge finds the verdict to be dissatisfactory, he or she must grant a new trial or set aside the  verdict.

In turn, an appellate court will not overturn the trial court’s decision to deny a motion for a new trial, unless the appellate court finds that the trial court abused its discretion. Thus, the appellate court must determine whether the evidence is sufficient, by taking the strongest reasonable view of the evidence in favor of the verdict, allowing any reasonable inferences that will sustain the verdict, and disposing of any contrary evidence. If the material evidence supports the verdict, the verdict must be sustained.

In the subject case, the appellate court noted that evidence was presented at trial that showed the plaintiff was jogging in the dark on a highway without a pedestrian lane, on the wrong side of the road, and that the defendant was driving at or below the speed limit. Thus, the appellate court found the trial court acted within its discretion in denying the plaintiff’s motion.

Meet with a Trusted Car Accident Attorney

If you suffered harm due to a motor vehicle collision, it is critical to engage an attorney who will zealously advocate on your behalf. Attorney Eric Beasley is a Tennessee car accident attorney with the skills and experience needed to help you seek a just result. Mr. Beasley can be contacted through the form online or at 615-859-2223 to set up a confidential and complimentary meeting to discuss your case.