Recent Opinions On Standards Of Review In Illinois Appellate Courts: Substantial Compliance With Statute; New Trial; Damages; Mistrial

Writing an appellate brief? Here are some helpful excerpts from recently published opinions regarding standards of review in the Illinois appellate courts.

(1) Figueroa v. Deacon, No. 1-09-1844, First District Illinois Appellate Court (8/25/10). Re substantial compliance with a statute: “Whether there is substantial compliance with a statutory provision is a question of law and our standard of review is de novo.”

(2) Union Planters Bank v. Thompson Coburn, No. 5-08-0497, Fifth District Illinois Appellate Court (6/3/19). Re appeal of an order for a new trial and damages assessed a jury:

“It is well established that, in an appeal from a jury verdict, a reviewing court may not simply reweigh the evidence and substitute its judgment for that of the jury.” … “Indeed, a reviewing court may reverse a jury verdict only if it is against the manifest weight of the evidence.” … “A verdict is against the manifest weight of the evidence where the opposite conclusion is clearly evident or where the findings of the jury are unreasonable, arbitrary, and not based upon any of the evidence.”

“The determination of whether a new trial should be granted rests within the sound discretion of the trial court, whose ruling will not be reversed unless it reflects an abuse of that discretion.” … ” ‘If the trial judge, in the exercise of his discretion, finds that the verdict is against the manifest weight of the evidence, he should grant a new trial; on the other hand, where there is sufficient evidence to support the verdict of the jury, it constitutes an abuse of discretion for the trial court to grant a motion for a new trial.’ ” … “In determining whether the trial court abused its discretion, the reviewing court should consider whether the jury’s verdict was supported by the evidence and whether the losing party was denied a fair trial.” … “Verdicts are to be liberally construed, however, and may be amended to conform to the pleadings and evidence contained in the record whenever the intention of the jury is clear.”

“Illinois courts have repeatedly held that the amount of damages to be assessed is peculiarly a question of fact for the jury to determine … and that great weight must be given to the jury’s decision.” … “Indeed, a court reviewing a jury’s assessment of damages should not interfere unless a proven element of damages was ignored, the verdict resulted from passion or prejudice, or the award bears no reasonable relationship to the loss suffered.” … “If a jury’s award falls within the flexible range of conclusions reasonably supported by the evidence, it must stand.” … “Illinois has long recognized the applicability, in questions of damages, of the doctrine of avoidable consequences, which prevents a party from recovering damages for consequences which that party could reasonably have avoided.” … In making this determination, we consider the record as a whole.

(3) Jackson v. Reid, No. 3-09-0512, Third District Illinois Appellate Court (6/29/10). Standard of review for an order re mistrial:

“The decision to deny a motion for a mistrial is committed to the sound discretion of a circuit court … ” ‘A mistrial should be declared only as the result of some occurrence of such character and magnitude that a party is deprived of its right to a fair trial, and the moving party must demonstrate actual prejudice as a result of the ruling or occurrence.’ ” … This court has previously ruled that in order for a “violation of an order in limine to be the basis of a new trial, the order must be specific and the violation clear. Where the likelihood of prejudice is great, the violation is reversible error.”