“Federal Tort Reform and the Seventh Amendment”
AALS Section on Civil Procedure Program: The Civil Jury in the Shadow of Tort Reform
Professor Suja A. Thomas
University of Cincinnati College of Law
“In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the
right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by jury, shall be otherwise re-
examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common
Dimick v. Schiedt, 293 U.S. 474 (1935).
The Supreme Court stated “it therefore may be that, if the question of remittitur were now
before us for the first time, it would be decided otherwise.” In holding additur
unconstitutional, the Court declined to extend the “doubtful precedent” of remittitur to
Boyd v. Bulala, 877 F.2d 1191 (4th Cir. 1989).
The Fourth Circuit stated “it is not the role of the jury to determine the legal
consequences of its factual findings. That is a matter for the legislature . . ..” Moreover,
the court stated that “[i]f a legislature may completely abolish a cause of action without
violating the right of trial by jury, we think it permissibly may limit damages recoverable
for a cause of action as well.” In the case, the court held that a Virginia cap on medical
malpractice damages was constitutional under the Seventh Amendment.
Davis v. Omitowoju, 883 F.2d 1155 (3rd Cir. 1989).
The Third Circuit stated “[i]t is significant to us that unlike the first clause of the Seventh
Amendment which in broad terms preserves the right to a trial by jury, the second clause
speaks exclusively of the role of the court. The second clause makes no mention of the
other branches of government.” The court held that a Virgin Island medical malpractice
cap was constitutional because the Seventh Amendment prohibits the courts, not the
legislature, from re-examining a jury’s findings.
Smith v. Botsford General Hospital, 419 F.3d 513 (6th Cir. 2005).
Citing the rea