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Can a Probate Judge Overturn a Jury Verdict?

Can a court rule to overturn a jury decision? (JNOV)

A non obstante veredicto (JNOV) means a judgment notwithstanding the verdict. It is a judgment made during litigation that goes against what the jury decides. It happens when a jury decides in favor of one party and the judge sets that verdict aside and decides a ruling in favor of the other party. For example, in a probate proceeding if the jury rules in favor of the person bringing charges (plaintiff), a non obstante veredicto would occur if the judge ignored the jury’s ruling and found in favor of the person the charges were being brought against (defendant). A non obstante veredicto can only under a certain circumstance. What is that circumstance and how is it applicable? Estate of Querner answers these questions.

Probate Case

Estate of Querner, 974 S.W.2d 159 (Tex. App.–San Antonio 1998, no writ)

Facts of the Case: Trial Process for Civil Cases

Thera Querner and her brother Jimmie L. Querner Jr. each owned an undivided 50 percent interest in a 900-acre ranch in Kerr and Gillespie counties which they inherited from their father. The pair sought partition of the ranch meaning they wished to have the property divided between the two of them in accordance with each of their 50 percent interest. Three commissioners oversaw dividing the land equally. Because Thera lived on a house on the ranch her property was more valuable and therefore, the commissioners also oversaw proper allowances to be made to Jimmie for any differences in quality and features of the two parcels of land.

When the land was divided, it was appraised to be worth $1,100 an acre, and 475 acres were given to Jimmie while 425 acres were given to Thera. Thera’s land was valued at $25,000, and Jimmie’s land was valued at $30,000 with adjustments for allowances and taking into consideration that his land had access to the roads through an easement (via use of his sister’s land). Thera disliked these results and filed objections in court. During the trial, the jury was asked if the land had been divided in a fair, just and impartial manner. They answered no. Jimmie then made a motion for JNOV which the court granted. Thera appealed saying the court erred in granting this motion. On appeal, the motion for JNOV was reversed as the court of appeals found the trial court had erred in granting it to overturn the jury trial.

What This Case Means: Judgment notwithstanding the verdict reached

A judgment non obstante veredicto (JNOV) can only occur if there is no evidence to support the decision of the jury. In other words, if jurors have come to a conclusion that cannot be supported by any evidence, the judge may rule against the jury’s verdict. This means that when a party requests for an N.O.V., the reviewing court must decide if there is any evidence for which the jury could have based their ruling off. The review is done with a favorable light to the verdict of the jurors. This means that the reviewing court need only find a scintilla of competent evidence to support the findings in a jury trial. In other words, the reviewing court only needs to find a very small amount of evidence that could support the jury’s original verdict as a matter of law.

Here, it was found that Thera produced enough competent evidence to appeal the JNOV. The testimonies at the trial found that whatever improvements Thera made to her portion of land were too small of magnitude and of such fair/poor condition that the value of them was included in the value of the land. In other words, Thera’s improvements to the land were not large enough to add value to her portion of the land. The commissioners had also testified that the fact that Jimmie is further from the roads and must cross his sister’s land to access them does not add value to his land, and it is actually a detriment to his land’s value. Because the court of appeals was able to find this evidence, they ruled that the trial court made a mistake when they granted Jimmie’s JNOV and overturned the juror’s decision.

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Related Questions

Can a judge overrule a jury’s verdict?

Judges are permitted to overrule the verdict of a jury if it goes against Texas probate law or if it would be considered unjust. And yes, this does happen, but whether you’re a plaintiff or defendant, don’t count on it as part of your litigation strategy.

There are certain circumstances in which a judge can overrule a jury verdict. As previously mentioned, this happens when the verdict goes against Texas probate law or is considered unjust by the court. In most cases, defendants in probate proceedings believe they have been wrongfully accused by the plaintiff and will attempt to appeal their case; however, there are instances in which plaintiff’s believe they have been wrongfully accused and appeal their case as well.

Can a judge overrule a jury acquittal (or not guilty verdict)?

Is it possible for a judge to overrule a jury’s decision in a criminal case and send the defendant to prison anyway? It can happen, but it’s rare. Let’s say the jury in a criminal case has listened to the evidence, heard witnesses and arguments from both sides, and makes its judgment. It returns a not guilty verdict. A judge can then decide that the trial is not over. If a judge dismisses the jury, he or she can hold a hearing and decide that a defendant is guilty after all.

There are a number of reasons why a judge might choose to do this. In some cases, the judge may feel that there was insufficient evidence presented at trial to support the jury’s verdict. In other cases, the judge may believe that the jury did not correctly apply the law when reaching their decision.

Whatever the reason, if a judge does choose to overrule a jury’s acquittal, the defendant will usually have an opportunity to appeal the decision. This means that they can take their case to a higher court where it will be reviewed by a panel of judges. If they are still found guilty by this higher court, then they will likely be required to serve their sentence. But again, don’t rely on this as a defense strategy.

What happens if a jury cannot agree on a verdict?

In a criminal case, if the jury is unable to agree on a verdict and a deadlock is reached, the judge would declare it a mistrial. When a jury deadlocks, or is unable to come to a decision on a verdict, the judge presiding over the case declares a mistrial. This means that the trial is ended and no verdict is reached. The jury’s inability to come to a decision does not necessarily mean that they believe the defendant is innocent, but rather that they are unable to agree beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. If the prosecution and defense are both unsatisfied with the outcome of a mistrial, they may choose to retry the case.

What is a trial outcome?

Trial outcomes are the ultimate decision from a jury or a judge, who hears the facts of a case. This can be a financial award, an order, or a denial. While trial outcomes are sometimes thought of as final decisions, they often prompt an appeal.

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