What is an Additur and When can it be Applied to Change a Jury Verdict in Tennessee?

Posted on Dec 8 2013 10:41PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  Judges in Tennessee are often called the “thirteenth juror” because they have the ability to modify a jury’s verdict.  One such way they can change a jury verdict is under T.C.A. § 20-10-101 which provides for an “additur” which simply means the judge can add an amount to the damages that are awarded by a jury.  Specifically, T.C.A. § 20-10-101(a)(1) provides as follows:


(a)(1) In cases where, in the opinion of the trial judge, a jury verdict is not adequate to compensate the plaintiff or plaintiffs in compensatory damages or punitive damages, the trial judge may suggest an additur in such amount or amounts as the trial judge deems proper to the compensatory or punitive damages awarded by the jury, or both such classes of damages.


As a result, if the trial judge considers the jury verdict to be inadequate to compensate the plaintiff, then the judge can suggest an amount to add to the compensatory or punitive damages awarded by the jury.  If this occurs, the defendant has the option to simply accept the additur and then it is considered to be the verdict of the court.  Specifically, T.C.A. § 20-10-101(a)(2) provides as follows:


(2) If the additur is accepted by the defense, it shall then be ordered by the trial judge and become the verdict, and if not accepted, the trial judge shall grant the plaintiff's motion for a new trial because of the inadequacy of the verdict upon proper motion being made by the plaintiff.


If the defendant does not accept the additur, then the trial judge is required to grant the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial and the new trial can then proceed.  The defendant also has the option to appeal the judge’s additur to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.  Specifically, T.C.A. § 20-10-101(b)(1) provides as follows:


(b)(1) In all jury trials had in civil actions, after the verdict has been rendered and on motion for a new trial, when the trial judge is of the opinion that the verdict in favor of a party should be increased and an additur is suggested by the trial judge on that account, with the proviso that in case the party against whom the verdict has been rendered refuses to make the additur, a new trial will be awarded, the party against whom such verdict has been rendered may make such additur under protest, and appeal from the action of the trial judge to the court of appeals.


Under subsection (b)(2) of this statute, the Court of Appeals then reviews the additur decision of the trial court.  The Court of Appeals can reverse or affirm that decision in whole or in part.  An additur can be one of the more frustrating doctrines in Tennessee law for a defense attorney.  The trial judge can decide to alter the verdict of 12 jurors simply because the court does not believe the damages are sufficient.  This can be a very hard doctrine to explain to your client after a successful trial verdict turns into a not-so successful trial verdict.


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TAGS: Jury Issues, Damages, Post Judgment Motions, Appeal, Civil Procedure, Punitive Damages
Don O'Donniley  -  12/11/2013 12:27:58 AM
I have had some success explaining the Judge reviews PI Jury Verdicts. In effect, the Jury is advisory since the Judge accepts the verdict or acts as the 13th Juror.

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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. He practices in all areas of defense litigation inside and outside of Tennessee.

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Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
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