One Reason Why NY Trial Court Verdicts Are So Hard to Overturn
After suffering a loss at trial, the losing party may be shocked to learn how difficult it can be to reverse, or overturn, the verdict - at least in New York. And, while the appellate courts are empowered to review the evidence that was adduced at the trial and to reach their own conclusions about what was proven (and what wasn't), the reason it is so challenging to reverse a verdict is usually rather straightforward:
When it comes to questions of credibility, a trial court's or jury's evaluation will always be given a great amount of deference. (In the commercial litigation context, particularly in cases, such as tortious interference where injunctive relief is sought, trials will often be held before judges rather than juries).
New York's courts have summarized this rule as follows:
"Upon review of a nonjury trial verdict, this Court " 'independently review[s] the probative weight of the evidence, together with the reasonable inferences that may be drawn therefrom, and grant[s] the judgment warranted by the record' " while according due deference to the trial court's factual findings and credibility determinations (Ash v Bollman, 80 AD3d 1115, 1117 , quoting Shon v State of New York, 75 AD3d 1035, 1036 ; see Haber v Gutmann, 64 AD3d 1106, 1107 , lv denied 13 NY3d 711 )."
In truth, this rule makes a lot of sense; since the appeals court wasn't in the courtroom to assess anyone's credibility at the trial, they should afford the trial court's judgment a fair amount of weight.