Although we generally associate the challenging of a judge’s ruling with part of the appeals process, there are many instances when a litigant may request a judge to reconsider his or her own decision. As one can expect, asking a judge to reverse himself can be a tricky proposition. Indeed, as two unfortunate defendants before a federal judge who sits on the Middle District of Georgia recently saw, contempt can befall those who carelessly ask for reconsideration.
The case, Wallace v. Wiley Sanders Truck Lines, Inc., started with a motor vehicle accident on U.S. Highway 82 East in Cuthbert, Georgia. An employee of one of the defendants in this action was operating a tractor trailer owned by the defendant. The plaintiff was operating a tractor trailer that was directly in front of the defendant’s tractor trailer. The plaintiff stopped his vehicle and turned on his indicator, signaling that he intended to make a right turn onto a private driveway off the highway. As the plaintiff was making his turn, however, the defendant’s tractor trailer collided with the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff suffered injuries as a consequence of the collision, and he brought suit against the defendant and its insurance company for injuries and pain and suffering. Following trial, the jury found that the defendant’s employee had been negligent and awarded $650,000 in compensatory damages. The defendants moved for the district court to order a new trial, arguing that the court had made evidentiary and jury instruction errors that necessitated the new trial. Unsurprisingly, the judge disagreed.