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SUPREME COURT ALLOWS CORPORATE APPEAL AFTER MISSED DEADLINE

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In a recent case, the Texas Supreme Court allowed a corporation that lost a jury verdict to appeal its case even though it had missed a deadline to file an appeal. The decision occurred in Ryland Enterprise, Inc. v. Weatherspoon, ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2011)(12/16/11).

In Ryland, after an adverse verdict the corporation filed a motion to enter a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (called a "jnov") before the trial court rendered judgment. The motion also included a new trial request. The motions were denied, and thereafter the corporation failed to file its notice of appeal prior to the usual thirty-day deadline, so the court of appeals dismissed its appeal.

The Supreme Court, however, ruled that corporation's motion, though filed before the entry of the judgment, extended the appellate time tables. "Because an arguable interpretation of our procedural rules allowed [the corporation's] premature, pre-judgment [jnov motion] to extend the appellate timetable to ninety days, the court of appeals erred in dismissing the appeal."

The Court ruled that a "jnov motion can constitute a 'motion to modify the judgment' . . . if it assails the later-entered judgment." That occurred here. "Whether a premature motion to modify the judgment or a premature motion for new trial, [the corporation's] motion clearly assailed the trial court's judgment," and so the Court ruled that the appellate timetable was extended for the corporation.

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