Appellate Court Will Review Plaintiff’s Challenge to Judgment as a Matter of Law Though Not Raised in New Trial Motion

Reversing its decision in Carter v. Treadway Trucking, Inc., 611 So. 2d 1034 (Ala. 1992), the Alabama Supreme Court held that the plaintiff in Robertson v. Gaddy Electric and Plumbing, LLC, No. 1081351 (Ala. April 9, 2010), did not waive his appeal of the Rule 50 judgment as a matter of law on his wantonness claim by not raising the issue in his new trial motion.  

The Alabama Supreme Court explained:

"although an unsuccessful movant’s failure to present the trial court with an opportunity to revisit the sufficiency-of-the-evidence issue in a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (now called a renewed motion for a judgment as a matter of law, see Rule 50, Ala. R. Civ. P.) precludes reversal on appeal of the denial of the motion for a directed verdict (now called a judgment as a matter of law, see Rule 50, Ala. R. Civ. P.),

‘a trial judge does not grant a motion for a [judgment as a matter of law] with a view to reserving the issue for revisitation. On the contrary, he does so with a view to terminating the issue, that is, to ‘save the time and trouble involved in a lengthy jury determination. ‘ 9 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2521 (1971).

That the Rules do not, and, logically, need not, contain a [judgment-as-matter-of-law] ‘counterpart’ applicable to a party against whom a verdict has been directed, hardly deserves a passing reference. Had the trial court [entered a judgment as a matter of law] for Black on both theories of recovery in this case, that is, on the wantonness claim and the negligence claim, no post-judgment motion would have been required to preserve the sufficiency-of-the-evidence issues for appellate review. Logic and the policy of the Rules of Civil and Appellate Procedure thus compel us to conclude that this case is not within the sufficiency-of-the-evidence exception expressed in McGough v. Slaughter, 395 So.2d 972 (Ala. 1981). Consequently, we will proceed to review the sufficiency of the evidence of wantonness.’"

Robertson (quoting Clark v. Black, 630 So. 2d 1012, 1016 (Ala. 1993).