New York CPLR 4404(a) - Interpretation

CPLR 4404(a) provides: After a trial of a cause of action or issue triable of right by a jury, upon the motion of any party or on its own initiative, the court may set aside a verdict or any judgment entered thereon and direct that judgment be entered in favor of a party entitled to judgment as a matter of law or it may order a new trial of a cause of action or separable issue where the verdict is contrary to the weight of the evidence, in the interest of justice or where the jury cannot agree after being kept together for as long as is deemed reasonable by the court. It is axiomatic that a jury verdict is entitled to the benefit of every fair and reasonable inference which can be drawn from the evidence and that it is the function of the jury, not the Court, to make credibility determinations. It has often been observed that "whether a jury verdict is against the weight of evidence is essentially a discretionary and factual determination which is to be distinguished from the question of whether a jury verdict, as a matter of law, is supported by sufficient evidence". Nicastro v. Park, 113 AD2d 129, 495 NYS2d 184 (2nd Dept. 1985). In addition, "[a]lthough these two inquiries may appear somewhat related, they actually involve very different standards and may well lead to disparate results". Cohen v. Hallmark Cards, 45 NY2d 493, 410 NYS2d 282, 382 NE2d 1145 (C.A. 1978). To sustain a determination that a jury verdict is not supported by sufficient evidence as a matter of law, there must be "no valid line of reasoning and permissible inference which could possibly lead reasonable men to the conclusion reached by the jury on the basis of the evidence presented at trial". Cohen v. Hallmark Cards, supra; Nicastro v. Park, supra. Moreover, as stated in Nicastro, "[t]he criteria for setting aside a jury verdict as against the weight of the evidence are necessarily less stringent... [and] whether a jury verdict should be set aside as against the weight of the evidence does not involve a question of law, but rather requires a discretionary balancing of many factors ". The rule has been stated as requiring that a jury verdict be set aside where "the jury could not have reached a verdict on any fair interpretation of the evidence". Nicastro v. Park, supra; see also, Burney v. Raba, 266 AD2d 174, 697 NYS2d 329 (2nd Dept. 1999); Licker v. Brangan, 177 AD2d 547, 576 NYS2d 288 (2nd Dept. 1991).