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In the case of Jennifer O’Neal v. Sharna Hudson and Gerald Lyles, a district court was asked to consider damages for injuries sustained during an auto collision. In that incident, Gerald Lyles—who was driving Hudson’s car—rear-ended O’Neal’s vehicle. O’Neal claimed that she received multiple injuries from the crash and filed a lawsuit against Lyles and Hudson for negligence.

The two parties entered arbitration where Hudson was granted a trial de novo, or short jury trial. During that trial, Hudson presented evidence that showed that O’Neal had waited almost four months to get treatment for the injuries she allegedly sustained. Hudson showed further evidence that O’Neal had also suffered several injuries from a preceding auto crash. Hudson claimed that O’Neal’s injuries predated the crash with Lyles and the jury agreed.

Upon receiving the verdict, O’Neal moved for judgement notwithstanding the verdict. If no judgement was to be given, then the plaintiff also moved for a new trial. The judge dismissed both motions and O’Neal appealed that decision.

When examined by the appellate court, it was found that no motion for judgement was entered after the close of evidence, before a verdict was rendered. Rather, a motion for judgement as a matter of law was placed at the close of the case. This was a violation of procedure. Further, the court found that the jury did not arrive at a conclusion that disregarded the evidence presented. The jury also did not disregard the instructions of the court while drawing its conclusions. This left no grounds for a motion for a new trial.

Having affirmed this procedural violation and that the jury’s verdict was reasonable given the court’s instructions and the evidence presented, the appeals court affirmed the ruling of the district court.

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