Whether a new trial upon the ground of excessive or inadequate damages should be granted or refused, or whether the verdict should be reduced, rests in the sound judicial discretion of a trial court.
The patient consented to an operation on her right ear. However, during the operation, the surgeon determined that her left ear was in a more serious condition and decided to perform an operation on the left ear only. The patient sued the surgeon for the tort of assault and battery based on a lack of consent. The trial court awarded damages to the patient amounting to $14,322.50. The doctor moved the court for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, on the ground that he was entitled to a new trial because the damages award was excessive, appearing to have been given under the influence of passion and prejudice. The trial court had granted the surgeon's motion for a new trial. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of Minnesota.
Was the grant for a new trial proper?
The court upheld the grant of a new trial, holding that the court did not abuse its discretion in granting defendant's motion for a new trial. Where damages are susceptible of ascertainment by calculation, and a jury returns either an inadequate or excessive amount, it is the duty of a court to grant unconditionally a new trial for the inadequacy of the verdict, or, if excessive, a new trial unless plaintiff will consent to a reduction of the amount given by the jury.