Credibility of Witnesses in Negligence Claims

February 2nd, 2018

When a case goes to trail both parties want to have credible witnesses. Witness credibility is important because it can make or break a case and influence the jury’s decision. To determine if your witness is credible you should look to a few deciding factors such as the witness’s accuracy, demeanor, lack of bias, and motivation for testifying. If a witness satisfies all these factors, then they are a pretty reliable witness. However, even if you think your witness is reliable the jury has the last say and can believe all of your witness’s testimony, some of it, or none of it.

When a jury reaches a verdict based on witness credibility that verdict stands unless there is no evidence to support that jury decision. For example, if the jury renders a verdict against the defendant but throughout trial all the evidence supported the plaintiffs claim, the judge can overturn this verdict. When a judge decides to reverse or amend the jury’s verdict based on insufficient evidence this process is called jury notwithstanding the verdict(JNOV).

Medical Malpractice Credibility

In a recent Rhode Island Supreme Court case, the court reversed the trail judge’s decision to grant a new trial since the evidence was enough to support the jury’s credibility determination. In Aptt v. Cedarz Medical and Cosmedics, Inc., the jury returned a verdict for defendants and determined that even though Dr. Baaklini was negligent, his negligence was not the proximate cause of Aptt’s injuries. After the verdict was returned, the trail justice concluded that the jury verdict was actually wrong and ultimately granted the injured party a new trial. The trail justice granted a new trial because he believed that the plaintiff was credible and the defendant was incredible.

Subsequently, this court took issue with the fact that the judge based his decision on his own opinions instead of on a showing that the evidence was severely lacking in any support of the jury’s decision. The court reasoned that the trail justice “did not ground his decision in gravely lacking evidence, but rather expressed his own disagreement with the jury’s credibility determination.” Consequently, the court held that even though the trial justice’s determination of credibility could have been accurate, so could the jury’s determination, and therefore the jury’s verdict should stand as reasonable.

Therefore, it is clear from this recent R.I Supreme Court case that a jury’s determination of witness credibility stands unless the judge finds that there is no evidence to support this verdict. It is not enough for a judge to overturn a verdict simply because he does not agree with the jury’s decision.

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If you have been injured as a result of medical malpractice, the attorneys at the Bottaro Law Firm can help you. Remember that delay can harm your case. To schedule a free consultation about your case call or text us at 401-777-7777, or contact us online today.