Stds of Review: Appellate Review of Directed Verdict granted at trial

From Morgan v. Lanham, COA, NPO 3/18/2011

In Daniels v. CDB Bell, LLC, 300 S.W.3d 204, 215-16 (Ky. App. 2009):As to directed verdicts, this Court stated the appropriate standard of review :

When a directed verdict is appealed, the standard of review on appeal consists of two prongs. The prongs are: “a trial judge cannot enter a directed verdict unless there is a complete absence of proof on a material issue or if no disputed issues of fact exist upon which reasonable minds could differ.” Bierman v. Klapheke, 967 S.W.2d 16, 18-19 (Ky. 1998). “A motion for directed verdict admits the truth of all evidence which is favorable to the party against whom the motion is made.” National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n By and Through Bellarmine College v. Hornung, 754 S.W.2d 855, 860 (Ky.1988), citing Kentucky & Indiana Terminal R. Co. v. Cantrell, 298 Ky. 743, 184 S.W.2d 111 (1944).

Clearly, if there is conflicting evidence, it is the responsibility of the jury, the trier of fact, to resolve such conflicts. Therefore, when a directed verdict motion is made, the court may not consider the credibility or weight of the proffered evidence because this function is reserved for the trier of fact. National, 754 S.W.2d at 860 (citing Cochran v. Downing, 247 S.W.2d 228 (Ky.1952)).  In order to review the trial court's actions in the case at hand, we must first see whether the trial court favored the party against whom the motion is made, including all inferences reasonably drawn from the evidence. Second, “the trial court must determine whether the evidence favorable to the party against whom the motion is made is of such substance that a verdict rendered thereon would be ‘palpably or flagrantly’ against the evidence so as ‘to indicate that it was reached as a result of passion or prejudice.’” If the answer to this inquiry is affirmative, we must affirm the trial court granting the motion for a directed verdict. Id. Moreover, “[i]t is well argued and documented that a motion for a directed verdict raises only questions of law as to whether there is any evidence to support a verdict.” Harris v. Cozatt, Inc., 427 S.W.2d 574, 575 (Ky.1968). Further, “a reviewing court cannot substitute its judgment for that of the trial judge unless the trial judge is clearly erroneous.” Bierman, 967 S.W.2d at 18.

Importantly, evidence that is speculative, conjectural, or both is not sufficient to defeat a motion for directed verdict. Id. at 216.




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