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Worsham v. Day

Supreme Court of Arkansas

May 23, 2019

DEBBIE WORSHAM APPELLANT
v.
ROY DAY AND TERESA DAY APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM THE FRANKLIN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 24OCV-12-97] HONORABLE DENNIS CHARLES SUTTERFIELD, JUDGE AFFIRMED.

          Lucas Law, PLLC, by: Molly E. Lucas; and Marcus Vaden, for appellant.

          Robbins Law Firm, by: Kevin N. Jones and Michael S. Robbins, for appellees.

          OPINION

          KAREN R. BAKER, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE

         Appellant, 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 new trial.
. . . .
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.

         Upon 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 ...

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