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In reviewing a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), an appellate court applies the same standard as the trial court. A JNOV is proper only when the court can find, as a matter of law, that there is neither evidence nor reasonable inference therefrom sufficient to sustain the verdict. A motion for a JNOV admits the truth of the opponent's evidence and all inferences that can be reasonably drawn therefrom, and requires the evidence be interpreted most strongly against the moving party and in the light most favorable to the opponent. No element of discretion is involved.
Scott Goodman, administrator of Clive Goodman’s estate instituted an action against Gladys Goodman concerning property that the deceased transferred to Gladys before his death. A jury found that Gladys held the property in trust for the deceased's children and wrongfully withheld the property. The trial court found that Scott had commenced the action after the limitations period had run and granted Gladys’ motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV). The court of appeals affirmed and Scott sought review.
Did the trial court err by granting JNOV because Gladys did not propose jury instructions on the statute of limitations defense?
The court reversed the judgment against Scott. The court found that the trust at issue was properly characterized as an express trust. The court held that the trial court erred in granting JNOV because the statute of limitations defense presented a question of fact. The question of when Gladys repudiated or terminated the trust could not be decided as a matter of law because it was susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation.