Rendering a Verdict in a Civil Trial

Following the resting of the plaintiff and defendant legal teams in a civil jury trial, presiding judges will take over the process of assisting the jury in rendering a verdict within the scope of applicable laws and statutes.  After the closing arguments in a civil lawsuit trial, the process following a strict order including:

  • Judicial instructions to the jury
  • Juror deliberations
  • Potential mistrial declarations
  • Rendering of the verdict
  • Post-verdict legal motions
  • Judicial judgment and mandates
  • Appeals

 

Judicial Instructions to the Jury

Following both sides closing arguments, the judge will read their instructions to the jury known as the judge’s charge.  In brief, the judge’s charge will detail to the jurors the applicable laws through which they must discern the facts of a case and render a verdict.  Following these instructions, the jury will retire to the deliberations room.

Juror Deliberations

Once in the jury chambers, the jurors will elect a foreperson or head juror to lead them in their deliberations of the facts and laws surrounding a given case.  Through the case of a civil trial, the decision of the jury may or may not need to be unanimous before rendering a verdict.  Typically, the number of jurors in concurrence to render a verdict is established in a pre-trial hearing or according to applicable statutes regarding the jurisdiction of the suit being heard.  If a jury cannot come to agreement on certain items, thus be unable to achieve a verdict, a mistrial will ensue.

Potential Mistrial Declarations

A mistrial, in regards to civil cases, is a trial that is incomplete and has reached a stalemate before a jury is able to render a verdict.  A number of reasons are common for a judge to declare a mistrial including:

  • Juror deadlock on verdict
  • Death of lawyer, judge, or juror
  • Misconduct on behalf of the jury
  • Wrongdoing found in the previous creation of the jury
  • Gross misconduct in the court that would unfairly bias a jury one way or another

 

In the event of a declaration of a mistrial, the plaintiff must opt to retry to the suit at a later date, or elect to drop the suit in its entirety.

Rendering the Verdict

In lawsuits and civil disputes that are settled at trial, the jurors will either find for defendants or the plaintiff.  Additionally, the jury will set any financial damage amounts that are to be paid to the either side, pending the verdict.  Likewise, the jury, at the same time, will render their decision on the counterclaims made by defendants that were produced during the trial.  Following a jury verdict, all aspects of a trial are settled both legally and financially.  To ensure the accuracy of the jury verdict, or prevent a rogue juror from throwing a trial, attorneys from either party may request that a jury be polled, or asked to state their agreement or disagreement, regarding the verdict rendered.

 

Post-Verdict Legal Motions

Depending on the jurisdiction and venue of a given civil trial, either party, although typically the losing side may make post-verdict legal motions following a jury’s announcement.  For example, a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict essentially requests the judge to support the losing party in spite of the verdict rendered by a jury.  Additionally, a motion for a new trial is requested when a losing party feels inherent flaws existed in the trial process leading up to the juror deliberations that would have detrimentally afflicted their judgment to render a verdict faithfully or without bias. 

Judicial Judgment and Mandates

For a jury’s decision to become legally binding, a judge must enter his or her own judgment on the verdict rendered.  This judgment then is entered into the public court files and records, as well as describes the terms and conditions of the verdict and judgment.  Additionally, in civil lawsuits, the judge can alter the amount of damages to be paid as well. 

Appeals

Aside from motioning for a new trial, losing parties, or even winning parties not receiving the judgment they desire, can appeal the decision of a civil trial.  Depending on the case and jurisdiction of the civil trial, the losing party does not automatically have the right to appeal a decision, but rather, there must be a basis for this appeal.

 

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