Don’t look now, but the Supreme Court of Virginia may have just
redefined clarified the way you argue a motion to strike at the close of all of the evidence. Trial types may want to take some time to read over one of last session’s most important opinions, United Leasing Corporation v. Lehner Family Business Trust.
United Leasing is a breach of contract case. The plaintiff, the Lehner Family Business Trust, was not actually a party to the contract; one of the parties attempted to assign its claims to the Trust, and the validity of that assignment would play a major role in the litigation.
The parties went to trial before a jury. At the close of the Trust’s case in chief, United Leasing moved to strike on two grounds:
- The Trust had failed to prove an assignment; and
- The Trust had failed to prove damages.
The trial court overruled United Leasing’s motion to strike. United Leasing put on its own evidence, and the Trust presented evidence in rebuttal. After the jury retired at the close of all of the evidence, counsel for United Leasing stated:
Renew my motion to strike. For the record, I wanted to renew my motion to strike.
Instead of addressing the motion to strike, the trial court spoke to counsel for a while about exhibits and jury instructions. After closing argument and after the jury began its deliberations, the trial court asked United Leasing about its renewed motion. At that point, United Leasing argued only that the Trust had failed to prove damages. It did not reargue the assignment issue.
The jury returned a $1.1 million verdict for the Trust. United Leasing appealed, arguing that the Trust had failed to prove an assignment.Continue Reading United Leasing Corp. v. Lehner Family Business Trust: When Renewing Your Motion to Strike, Do Not Renew Your Motion to Strike