What Can I Expect in a Lawsuit? Part IV: Post-Trial Motions, Appeals, and Prospects of Settlement
Part III of What Can I Expect in a Lawsuit? discussed dispositive motions and trial. In Part IV of What Can I Expect in a Lawsuit?, our Columbus business litigation attorney will discuss post-trial motions, appeals, and how settlement becomes more likely as litigation progresses.
What is a Post-Trial Motion?
There are primarily three types of post-trial motions in a civil lawsuit: Motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, motions for new trial, as well as motions for additur or remittitur. While practicing as a business litigation attorney in Columbus, Ohio our firm has experienced all three.
Motions for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict
The first general type of post-trial motion is a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict which asks a court to rule in a party’s favor, even though the jury ruled for the other party. Because a judgment notwithstanding the verdict essentially asks that a judge overturn a jury’s conclusion, courts are often reluctant to grant such a motion. Thus, the standard for granting such a motion is fairly high. In Ohio civil lawsuits, a court will construe a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict most strongly in favor of the nonmoving party. Pelletier v. Rumpke Container Serv., 142 Ohio App. 3d 54, 60, 753 N.E.2d 958 (1st Dist. 2001). Where there is substantial evidence upon which reasonable minds could reach different conclusions, the motion will be denied. Id. In other words, a court can only grant the motion if reasonable minds could come to only one conclusion on the evidence submitted and that conclusion is adverse to the nonmoving party. Kiesel v. Hovis, 6th Dist. Sandusky No. S-12-043, 2013-Ohio-3469, ¶18.
Motions for New Trial, Additur, and Remittitur
The second general type of post-trial motion is a motion for new trial. Motions for new trial can be made for several reasons, including misconduct by the jury or opposing party, excessive or inadequate damages, the judgment is not sustained by the weight of the evidence, the judgment is contrary to law, error of law, as well as other specific reasons provided in Civil Rule 59. The most common reasons for moving for a new trial in civil litigation are that the judgment is not sustained by the weight of the evidence or excessive or inadequate damages.
When determining if the judgment is not sustained by the weight of the evidence, “a trial court must weigh the evidence and consider the credibility of the witnesses to determine whether the manifest weight of the evidence supports the judgment.” AM & JV, LLC v. MyFlori, LLC, 2018-Ohio-600, 107 N.E.3d 125, ¶17 (10th Dist.).
Motions for a new trial based upon excessive or inadequate damages are typically coupled with motions for new trial. A motion for additur is when a party argues that a jury’s award to it was inadequate based upon the evidence presented at trial. In Ohio, “additur is only available where agreed to by the defendant as an alternative to the trial court's granting a plaintiff's motion for a new trial.” Id. at ¶21. Therefore, “in order to obtain additur, a plaintiff must first demonstrate entitlement to a new trial.” Id.
A motion for remittitur is the opposite of additur. In a motion for remittitur a party asks that a judge reduce an award made to the opposite party. Although the Ohio rules of civil procedure do not expressly provide for remittitur, a court has the inherent authority to remit an excessive award, assuming it is not tainted with passion or prejudice, to an amount supported by the weight of the evidence. Id. at ¶27.
When Can I Appeal a Judgment in a Civil Lawsuit?
Appeals can be made for a variety of reasons. While practicing as a commercial litigation lawyer in Columbus, Ohio I have had to appeal a variety of issues. This includes appealing a judge’s ruling on post-trial motions, appealing a judge’s refusal to grant certain remedies, as well as opposing appeals when a final appealable order has not been issued. Many other issues can be appealed, including a judge’s ruling on evidence or a judge dismissing or disposing of a case upon summary judgment.
Our Columbus Commercial Litigation Attorney Has Settled Cases at Virtually All Stages of a Trial
It is important to note that cases can be settled at any time. Often, business disputes are settled between parties even before a lawsuit is filed. Even if a lawsuit is filed, negotiations are often ongoing. As a civil lawsuit progresses through each of the stages, the parties become better situated to negotiate a settlement. For instance, if some of the plaintiff’s claims are dismissed at the pleadings stage, a defendant may now be in a better position to negotiate out of a lawsuit. Or, both parties may learn of facts they did not know of during discovery that clearly point to one party winning the lawsuit if it were to proceed to trial. At this point, parties are likely to settle, rather than waste financial resources on legal fees. Finally, lawsuits can be (and often are) settled at trial.
Contact Our Law Firm if Your Company Becomes involved in a Civil Lawsuit
This post concludes our What Can I Expect in a Lawsuit? Legal Blog series. While I hope this series assists businesses when trying to understand what happens in a lawsuit, ultimately, it is not enough for any one to try and go it alone. If your business may potentially become involved in commercial litigation, please contact me so that we can discuss the best legal approach for your business.