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Defendant Failed to Preserve Challenges To Sufficiency of and Admission of Evidence in Non-Jury Trial

Murphy Oil, USA, Inc. v. English, [Ms. 1190610, Feb. 19, 2021], ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. 2021). In a plurality opinion, the Court (Mitchell, J.; Parker, C.J., concurs; Shaw, Bryan, and Mendheim, JJ., concur in the result) affirms the Monroe Circuit Court’s judgment in favor of Plaintiff English following a non-jury trial. The opinion first reiterates that “[a]s a general matter, ‘we do not review a trial court’s denial of a summary-judgment motion following a trial on the merits.’ Mitchell v. Folmar & Assocs., LLP, 854 So. 2d 1115, 1116 (Ala. 2003). Instead, ‘the sufficiency of the evidence at trial would be the significant question on appeal.’ Superskate, Inc. v. Nolen, 641 So. 2d 231, 233 (Ala. 1994).” Ms. *5. Because there was no argument or evidence that English had changed her testimony at trial based on experience gained during the summary-judgment proceeding, there was no basis for the Court to depart from the usual rule of declining to review the denial of a summary-judgment following a trial on the merits. Ms. *6.

Murphy Oil’s failure to move for a new trial doomed its effort to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal

“In a ‘nonjury case in which the trial court makes no specific findings of fact, a party must move for a new trial or otherwise properly raise before the trial court the question relating to the sufficiency or weight of the evidence in order to preserve that question for appellate review.’ New Props., L.L.C. v. Stewart, 905 So. 2d 797, 801-02 (Ala. 2004). This case was tried without a jury. The trial court made no oral factual findings at the trial, nor did it make any specific written factual findings in its judgment in favor of English. And the record does not indicate that Murphy Oil moved for a new trial or otherwise raised the alleged insufficiency of the evidence to the trial court after the judgment was entered. Thus, the issue of whether English provided sufficient evidence to support the judgment is not properly before us.”

Ms. *7. Finally, the opinion rejects Murphy Oil’s contention that the trial court improperly admitted evidence of medical expenses because it failed to object to admission of the evidence of the reasonableness and necessity of the treatment English received. The deposition testimony of English’s treating orthopedic surgeon and the surgeon’s testimony provided a sufficient evidentiary foundation for admission of the medical expenses. Ms. *8.

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