FROM THE FRANKLIN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 24OCV-12-97]
HONORABLE DENNIS CHARLES SUTTERFIELD, JUDGE AFFIRMED.
Law, PLLC, by: Molly E. Lucas; and Marcus Vaden, for
Robbins Law Firm, by: Kevin N. Jones and Michael S. Robbins,
R. BAKER, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
Debbie Worsham, returns to this court for a second time,
challenging the Franklin County Circuit Court's denial of
her motion for attorney's fees and costs. This case has
an extensive procedural history. Litigation began in 2012
when Worsham filed suit against the appellees, Roy and Teresa
Day, alleging breach of contract related to the sale of a
liquor store. In 2015, a jury awarded Worsham damages, and
the circuit court granted the Days' motion for new trial.
Worsham appealed to the court of appeals, which remanded the
matter to the circuit court to settle and supplement the
record. Worsham v. Day, 2016 Ark.App. 262
("Worsham I"). In 2017, the appeal
returned to the court of appeals and we certified the case to
this court. We dismissed Worsham's appeal for lack of
appellate jurisdiction and the jury's verdict remained
intact. Worsham v. Day, 2017 Ark.
192, 519 S.W.3d 699 ("Worsham II"). In
Worsham II, we recounted the procedural history of
this case as follows:
On July 25, 2012, Worsham filed a complaint for breach of
contract against the Days.
. . . .
The jury trial was held on March 10 and 11, 2015, and the
jury found for Worsham on her claim for breach of contract,
awarding her $115, 000 in damages.
. . . .
On March 23, 2015, the Days filed a motion for JNOV or for a
. . . .
The circuit court held a hearing on the motion for JNOV or
for a new trial on July 14, 2015. The court then entered an
order granting the motion on July 21, 2015, finding that the
jury verdicts were improper and inconsistent and that they
should be set aside in favor of granting a new trial. On
August 3, 2015, Worsham filed a motion to reconsider the
circuit court's order, which was denied. Worsham then
filed a timely notice of appeal and amended notice of appeal
from the circuit court's orders granting a new trial and
denying her motion to reconsider.
On appeal, the court of appeals remanded this case to settle
and supplement the record because there was no written
judgment in the record or addendum from the circuit court
reflecting the jury's verdicts. Worsham
[I]. Following the court of appeals' opinion,
Worsham filed a motion to enter judgment on May 19, 2016. On
May 25, 2016, the circuit court entered a "Judgment Upon
Jury Verdict," which was consistent with the jury's
verdicts. Worsham then filed a supplemental record with the
court of appeals containing this judgment, and we accepted
certification of this appeal on March 17, 2017.
review, we ultimately dismissed the appeal for lack of
appellate jurisdiction and explained:
While the jury-verdict forms were filed, there was no
judgment on the jury's verdict entered until May 25,
2016. Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 58 (2016) provides
that every judgment or decree shall be set forth on a
separate document and that a judgment is effective only when
entered in accordance with Administrative Order Number 2.
Administrative Order Number 2 states that the clerk shall
denote the date and time that a judgment is filed by stamping
or otherwise marking it with the date and time and the word
"filed" and that a judgment is entered when so
stamped or marked by the clerk. Ark. Sup. Ct. Admin. Order
No. 2 (2016).
Pursuant to Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure 50(b)(2) and
59(b), the Days' March 23, 2015 motion for JNOV or for a
new trial was treated as filed on May 26, 2016, the day after
the circuit court entered the judgment. However, there was no
order by the circuit court granting this posttrial motion
subsequent to the entry of the judgment on May 25, 2016. A
circuit court's order granting a new trial is a nullity
where a valid judgment has not yet been entered.
See, e.g., State v. Richardson,
2009 Ark. 206, 306 S.W.3d 11 (holding that a motion for new
trial was ineffective in the absence of a valid judgment and
commitment order, thus depriving the circuit court of any
basis in law for granting the motion and rendering its order
granting a new trial a nullity). Under Arkansas Rule of
Appellate Procedure-Civil 4(b)(1), the Days' posttrial
motion was deemed denied thirty days after its May 26, 2016
filing date. Neither party filed a notice of appeal or