Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Injured Party’s Failure to Preserve Appeal

In a car crash case in which the plaintiff claimed injury, the jury found for the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed. The appellate court found that the plaintiff had not preserved the appealed issues and affirmed the decision of the jury and the trial court in favor of the defendant.

On appeal from a verdict for the defendant, the plaintiff, Warren G. Hamilton, asked the Illinois Appellate Court to grant his request for judgment as a matter of law on the liability and to return the case the trial judge on the issue of damages.

Hamilton thought he preserved the issue for appeal by (1) asking for a directed verdict or in the jury instructions conference; and (2) filing an opposed trial motion under §2-1202(a) of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure that argued, among other things, the “defendant was negligent as a matter of law” and “the court erred in failing to direct a verdict for the plaintiff at the close of evidence.” In the same motion, Hamilton argued that the verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and closed by asking for a new trial, not judgment notwithstanding the verdict on liability.

“Under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 366(b)(2)(iii),” Justice M. Carol Pope explained, “’a party might not urge as error on review of the ruling on the parties’ post-trial motion any point, ground or relief not specified in the motion.’

Rule 366(b)(2)(iii) prohibits what plaintiff attempts to do in this case, which is to claim, on appeal, the trial court essentially erred in failing to grant him a judgment n.o.v. [notwithstanding the verdict] when he did not request such relief in his post-trial motion. The plain language of Section 2-1202(a), that a party ‘renew a request’ for directed verdict, read in conjunction with Section 2-1202(b)’s requirement a party specified the type of relief desired, requires a party to request a judgment n.o.v. in its post-trial motion to preserve the issue for review.”

The appellate court stated that under the standard in the Pedrick case and Maple v. Gustafson, 151 Ill.2d 445 (1992), a directed verdict or judgment n.o.v. is properly granted only where “all of the evidence, when viewed in its aspect most favorable to the opponent, so overwhelmingly favors movant that no contrary verdict based on that evidence could ever stand.” Pedrick v. Peoria & Eastern R.R. Co., 37 Ill.2d 494 (1967).

The Illinois Supreme Court has held that motions for directed verdict and motions for judgment n.o.v., although made at different times, raise the same questions and are governed by the same rules of the law. Maple Id. at 453 n.1.

There is a very high standard for a court to grant a motion for directed verdict or judgment n.o.v. When a party files a post-trial motion seeking a new trial, the trial court weighs the evidence and may set aside the verdict and order a new trial “if the verdict is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence.” Maple, 151 Ill.2d at 454.

“A verdict is against the manifest weight of the evidence where the opposite conclusion is clearly evident or where the findings of the jury are unreasonable, arbitrary and not based upon any of the evidence.” Id. at 454.

In this case and during the jury-instruction conference, the plaintiff moved for a directed verdict, which the trial court denied. Plaintiff filed his post-trial motion, delineating various errors that occurred during the trial, including the court’s failure to grant plaintiff a directed verdict. Here the plaintiff in his post-trial motion requested only a new trial. It did not request in the alternative, a judgment n.o.v. The plaintiff argued the jury’s verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence. As noted, this is the standard that the trial court applies to a motion for a new trial. Under Section 2-1202(a) of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, if the trial court denies a motion for a directed verdict in a jury trial, “the motion is waived unless the request is renewed in the post-trial motion.”

The rule is clear that all relief desired after a jury trial, whether inter alia, judgment n.o.v. or for a new trial, must be brought in a single post-trial motion. 735 ILCS 5/2-1201(b). The post-trial motion must “contain the points relied upon, particularly specifying the grounds in support thereof and must state the relief desired, for example, the entry of a judgment, the granting of a new trial or other appropriate relief.”

The appellate court summed up its opinion by stating that here the plaintiff had to prove defendant was negligent, that plaintiff suffered damages and the damages were proximately caused by defendant’s negligence. Unfortunately for the plaintiff, there was evidence before the jury to support a finding that the accident did not proximately cause plaintiff’s injuries. The jury, based on the evidence, could have found the medical issues for which plaintiff sought treatment were not the result of the accident. While the trial judge may have found differently, she was not at liberty to substitute her judgment for that of the jury and neither are we, said the appellate court. As a result, the appellate court could not find that the trial judge had abused her discretion when she denied plaintiff’s motion for a new trial on the basis that the jury verdict was not against the manifest weight of the evidence.

Hamilton v. Hastings, 2014 IL App (4th) 131021 (July 28, 2014).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling automobile accident cases, truck accident cases, bicycle accident cases and motorcycle accident cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Schaumburg, Schiller Park, Mundelein, Matteson, Orland Park, Tinley Park, Bensenville, Evanston, Round Lake Beach, Lake Forest, Waukegan, Lake Bluff, Prospect Heights, Vernon Hills, Arlington Heights, Wheaton and Hinsdale, Ill.

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