Big Verdict reversed because of improper closing argument

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Big Verdict reversed because of improper closing argument

A lawyer for a plaintiff in an employment discrimination case won a verdict for her client of $900,000 which included $600,000 in punitive damages. However the 8th Circuit reversed the award because the plaintiff’s lawyer improperly vouched for her client in closing  argument by relaying the lawyer’s own personal experience with sexual harassment in law school. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals (the appeals court covering Nebraska) in this opinion (PDF) held that  “the size of the damage award, while not beyond the bounds of rationality, suggests that counsel’s comment had a prejudicial effect” and reversed for a new trial. The court noted: “Counsel’s vouching and sympathy-arousing personal experience were directly aimed at enhancing these damages.” “Given the jury’s decision to award Gilster $40,000 for past emotional distress, $200,000 for future emotional distress, and $600,000 punitive damages, we cannot say that this improper argument did not accomplish the purpose which it was clearly intended to accomplish, namely, the enhancement of damages.”

April 17th, 2014|Uncategorized|