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Trial Judges Cannot Make Retrials Conditional


A person is injured in an automobile accident in Massachusetts and brings suit against the other driver for negligence. At a jury trial he is awarded $500. Disappointed with that amount, he asks for a new trial on the grounds that the verdict was inadequate. The trial judge agrees to order a new trial, unless the other driver will consent to an increase in the damages to $1,500. When the second driver agrees, the judge denies another trial. The injured party then appeals. In the case of Dimick v. Schiedt (1935), the Supreme Court holds that, under the Seventh Amendment and the common law, the trial court lacked the power to make a new trial conditional on the consent of the defendant to an increase in the payment for damages.