The jury ruled in my favor. Then the court ignored that, and ruled for the other guy. How can that be?

On TV and the movies, the jury verdict is always the climactic moment.  But here’s a little known fact: the judge can overrule the jury.  The losing party can file a Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict (JNOV), which is exactly what it sounds like. It essentially says: “Your honor: the jury got it wrong. There is no evidence in the record to support the conclusion that they came to.”

Trinidad Rivera just learned this the hard way. Mr. Rivera got a verdict in his favor ($42,000) against the Port Arthur ISD. Mr. Rivera claimed that he was moved out of his coaching position and reassigned to a less favorable position as an act of retaliation for the lawsuit he had filed against the district several years earlier. This made sense to the jury. But the judge overturned it, finding that there was no more than “a scintilla” of evidence that the earlier lawsuit had anything to do with the reassignment.  Mr. Rivera appealed the decision, but the Court of Appeals affirmed the judge’s ruling.  Thus that nice verdict goes poof.

The case is Rivera v. Port Arthur ISD, decided by the Court of Appeals for Corpus Christi and Edinburg on April 21, 2016. We found it at 2016 WL 1613285.


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