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Appellate court orders reinstatement of jury verdict

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Finding a trial judge erred when granting a new trial because he didn’t make specific findings in setting aside a jury verdict, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the lower court and ordered the jury verdict reinstated.

In American Family Home Insurance Co. v. Rick Bonta, No. 64A04-1008-CT-516, Rick Bonta sued Laura Morales and his insurer American Family Home Insurance Co. after he was injured in an accident with uninsured Morales. At trial, the jury found Bonta 55 percent at fault for his damages and Morales 45 percent at fault. Bonta filed a motion for judgment on the evidence and asked for a judgment in his favor or a new trial. The trial court set aside the jury verdict and granted the new trial, finding the verdict was against the weight of the evidence. The trial judge noted he was acting as a “thirteenth juror” by ordering the new trial.

After determining that American Family had standing to appeal the order, the Court of Appeals had to decide whether the trial judge made his decision under Indiana Trial Rule 50(C) or Rule 59(J). If under 50(C), the judge may grant a new trial and doesn’t have to support the findings, but if the judge made the decision under Rule 59(J), the judge must support the decision with written findings.

The order didn’t specify whether the trial court granted the motion based on Rule 50(C) or 59(J). The appellate court concluded that the judge’s order was granting relief pursuant to 59(J). The order said that the jury verdict was against the weight of the evidence and that the judge was acting as a 13th juror when ordering the new trial, but the order didn’t include special findings or other explanation, wrote Judge Patricia Riley.

The judges concluded that the proper remedy in this situation, citing Walker v. Pullen, 943 N.E.2d 349 (Ind. 2011), is to reinstate the jury verdict.

“While we understand that this result may seem harsh as a litigant may be disadvantaged not through his own fault but because a trial court failed to follow all the precedential requirements, we are not the proper court to formulate an alternative,” wrote Judge Riley.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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