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Small v. Sayre – Preserving Your Injury Lawsuit for Appeal

The goal of any injury lawyer at trial is to win the case and obtain fair compensation for the client. Unfortunately, even the most skilled attorneys can’t promise they will win every case. Our Orlando injury lawyers strongly believe in our clients, and we will fight tenaciously for a favorable outcome. Part of doing that means preparing properly for an appeal – which actually starts even before the trial gets underway. It’s sort of like insurance: The hope is that you won’t need it, but if you do, you want to know it’s there. 

The reason this is important is that generally appellate courts will not take notice of issues and disputes that were not properly raised, challenged or preserved before the trial court.

There are many ways to do this. As The American Bar Association points out, preserving matters for appeal is usually an ongoing effort throughout trial. It involves:

  • Making sure the pre-trial record is clear and pretrial orders are carefully reviewed for error or oversight;
  • Making sure that the statements of fact are coherent, cohesive and interesting (because appellate courts will simply be reviewing the cold record of the case);
  • Making good objections to challenge to correct any misstatement of the court or defense counsel immediately;
  • Carefully reviewing/ requesting modifications to the jury charge;
  • Filing post-trial motions such as judgment notwithstanding verdict, request for a new trial, etc.

One of the worst things you can hear from an appellate court is that while your side has raised a strong argument, it wasn’t properly preserved for appeal. That’s why it’s so important to trust your case only to an experienced injury attorney.

Plaintiffs in the recent case of Small v. Sayre were informed by the Alaska Supreme Court that they did not have grounds to challenge a jury verdict of just $10,000 in damages when they had sought $100,000 because the matter was not properly raised before the trial court before the jury was dismissed. The plaintiffs alleged the $10,000 verdict was inconsistent with the weight of the evidence, but the Alaska Supreme Court noted plaintiffs made no argument for why this issue was not raised at trial or why the court shouldn’t find they waived the claim.

Plaintiffs were victims of a rear-end accident caused by defendant driver. He conceded his own liability in causing the crash, but disputed causation and damages. Plaintiffs were seeking more than $100,000 in damages, and defendant argued he didn’t cause plaintiffs’ injuries to the full extent they claimed. The case went to trial on this issue.

Jurors heard about how the husband, wife and daughter were each treated in an emergency room after the collision, how they had numerous follow-up treatments with doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists and orthopedic surgeons and how the wife had been recommended for back surgery. Yet, jurors still only awarded $10,000 collectively.

On appeal, the Alaska Supreme Court noted plaintiffs’ attorney did not properly challenge the inconsistency of the verdict and therefore there was not trial court ruling on the matter and therefore, there was nothing for the higher court to review. In order to challenge the consistency of a verdict, plaintiffs would have needed to have first raised the issue after the verdict was rendered, provided a clear statement for their grounds of objection and insist on a ruling. The attorney, however, failed to formally raise the issue.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Small v. Sayre , Nov. 29, 2016, Alaska Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Major Car Accident Injuries to Girl Move Mother to Urge Proper Car Seat Use, Nov. 16, 2016, Orlando Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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