What are Post Trial Motions?

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When a trial has concluded and a verdict has been rendered by a judge or jury, the judgment must be formalized in writing by the court. Once the judgment has been rendered, either party may file what is called a post trial motion, or motion which is filed after the trial is over. These post trial motions are filed with the trial court, not with the court of appeals. Most states set specific time limits and restrictions on the type of motions which can be filed following the conclusion of the trial. Some of the most common type of post trial motions include a motion for new trial, a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), or a motion to amend or nullify the judgment.

A final judgment may be amended by the trial court at any time to alter the language of the judgment or to correct errors of calculation. A court cannot substantively change the content of a judgment by virtue of a motion to amend the judgment. A motion to nullify the judgment may be granted if the final judgment is obtained by fraud or ill practices, or if it is rendered against a mentally incompetent person, or a defendant which had not be served with process, or by a court which does not have jurisdiction over the subject matter of the suit.

In a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, a party, usually the losing party, motions the court to render a verdict which is contrary to the verdict rendered by the jury. Generally, a motion for JNOV may be granted only if the facts and inferences point so strongly and overwhelmingly in favor of one party that reasonable jurors could not arrive at a contrary verdict. The decision as to whether to grant a JNOV rests with the discretion of the trial judge. In making this determination, the trial judge should not evaluate the credibility of the witnesses and all reasonable inferences or factual questions must be resolved in favor of the non-moving party.

The motion for new trial generally requires a less stringent test than a JNOV. When the trial judge is convinced by his examination of the facts that the judgment would result in a miscarriage of justice, a new trial should be ordered. A new trial may also be ordered if new evidence is discovered since the trial concluded and that new evidence could not have been discovered with due diligence before or during the trial.

The law usually does not require a party to file a post trial motion as a prerequisite to appealing a judgment. However, the time period to file and hear a post trial motion generally extends the time to appeal the judgment. Post trial motions are usually filed in cases involving a verdict or judgment rendered by a jury. This is because the parties recognize that a judge is not likely to reverse his own ruling unless new evidence has been discovered.

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