In Latin, “remittitur” comes from the verb “remittere,” meaning “to send (something) back.” It is from this same Latin verb that English gets the words “to remit” (as in canceling something such as a debt) and “remittance” (something ‘sent back,’ especially the money that immigrants send to family members still living in the countries in which they were born).
In Personal Injury Cases
In personal injury cases tried before a jury, a remittitur is a ruling by a judge which reduces the amount awarded to the plaintiff by the jury. Most often, a judge justifies a remittitur on the grounds that damages awarded by the jury were in excess of what the plaintiff was seeking, or that the awarded damages are otherwise excessive.
Remittitur rulings can be challenged. In Massachusetts, the Appeals Court hears challenges to remittitur decisions issued by lower courts. The remittitur ruling may be either tossed out, meaning that the plaintiff receives the original, larger amount awarded by the jury, or upheld.
As a side note, there is a complementary type of ruling called “additur,” in which a judge may add to the amount awarded by a jury to the plaintiff or plaintiffs. Additur is relatively rare in the United States, however, being barred from federal courts and only practiced in a few states, particularly California and New Jersey.
Remittitur and You
If you are a personal injury plaintiff whose jury-awarded damages were reduced by remittitur, you are likely feeling many emotions. Confusion as to what this practice is and why you have never heard about it before. Anger as to how a judge can alter a decision reached by a jury of your peers, and for reasons you cannot fully understand. Sadness and worry as to how you will care for your loved ones–or how they will care for you–without the full amount of your jury-awarded damages.
We are here to help. We can challenge remittitur decisions and achieve favorable outcomes in many circumstances. Please call us today to discuss the particulars of your situation–and find some peace of mind again.