Trial judge's grant of new trial is reversed by Court of Appeals
Sallie Smith was allegedly hurt when Michael Lundeen made a left turn in front of her on a winter day. He argued that she was speeding and ran a red light, but never offered that excuse to the investigating officer. The jury found in favor of Lundeen, but the Court granted a new trial, finding that the verdict was "against the great weight of the evidence." The judge pointed to the inconsistency of the Defendant's excuses and also the fact that the Defense attorney violated the judge's pre-trial ruling precluding him from offering weather as an excuse and from bringing up the plaintiff's denial of Social Security Disability.
The Court of Appeals overturned the judge's decision, allowing the verdict in favor of Lundeen to stand. Even though the judge who conducted the trial felt that it was "against the great weight of the evidence," the appellate judges held that he could not substitute his judgment about witness credibility for the jury's. The appellate court further concluded that the evidence wrongfully placed before the jury by defense counsel was not substantial enough to have resulted in the denial of a fair trial.