from Cherokee Circuit Court (CV-14-900074)
Golden renovated a house owned by Stacy Ann Velasquez. Golden
commenced an action in the Cherokee Circuit Court claiming
that Velasquez had not paid for all the labor and materials.
He asserted that he was entitled to damages for breach of
contract, account stated, and quantum meruit.The jury trial
occurred on April 18, 2016.
jury heard testimony that Velasquez and Golden had entered
into an oral contract in 2010. Golden agreed to provide the
materials and labor to renovate Velasquez's house;
Velasquez agreed to remit one initial payment and,
thereafter, monthly installments of $300 to satisfy the costs
of the renovation. Velasquez made the initial payment of $1,
000 and monthly payments of approximately $300 until March
2013. The parties agree that Velasquez had paid Golden $10,
460 when, in March 2013, Golden agreed to allow her to stop
paying the $300 monthly installments because Velasquez was
caring for her mother who had been diagnosed with terminal
cancer. Velasquez's mother died in December 2013.
Velasquez received approximately $38, 000 in life-insurance
proceeds, she contacted Golden. She testified that she had
asked Golden how much she owed on the contract, that he had
wanted her "to come sign papers, " but that she had
not done so. Velasquez testified that she had later
determined that the balance she owed to Golden was $9, 540;
however, she said: "He refused it."
testified that Velasquez had not communicated a renovation
budget and that she owed him $23, 351 plus $8, 219.40 in
interest. Golden testified that Velasquez had agreed to pay
interest, but he admitted that the parties had never
discussed a rate of interest. He said that he had decided to
charge the same rate as had been charged by his bank.
Velasquez testified that she had limited the renovation
budget to no more than $20, 000, that she had never agreed to
pay interest, and that Golden had never mentioned interest.
Phillip Rickey Gossett, Velasquez's father and
Golden's employee, testified that he had participated in
the initial discussion regarding the renovation, that
Velasquez had communicated a $20, 000 renovation budget to
Golden, that interest had never been discussed, and, although
his testimony is not entirely clear on this point, that he
had reassured Golden that he would pay up to $20, 000 if
Velasquez did not.
the close of all the evidence, the charge conference
occurred. Golden moved for a Rule 50, Ala. R. Civ. P.,
judgment as a matter of law ("JML"), and Velasquez
renewed her motion for a JML. The circuit court denied both
motions. Golden then abandoned his account-stated and
quantum-meruit claims. The circuit court read the agreed-upon
jury instructions. The circuit-court judge said: "[T]his
case is a little bit unusual in that there's an admission
[by Velasquez] that a[n oral] contract did exist"; the
dispute, he explained, focused on the "extent of that
jury returned a verdict for Velasquez. Golden moved for
judgment notwithstanding the verdict, now referred to as a
postverdict motion for a JML, see Rule 50, and he
requested, in the alternative, a new trial pursuant to Rule
59, Ala. R. Civ. P. The circuit court held a postjudgment
hearing at which it heard arguments of counsel. The circuit
court specifically noted its consideration of whether the
jury could have reasonably concluded that Velasquez had not
breached the contract based upon her testimony that she had
communicated a budget, that she had tried to pay Golden $9,
540, and that he had refused the money. The circuit court
entered a judgment on the verdict, denied Golden's
postverdict motion for a JML, and denied his motion for a new
trial. Golden filed a timely notice of appeal, arguing that
the evidence presented was insufficient to support the jury
verdict and, therefore, that the circuit court had erred by
refusing to grant his motion for a new trial.
"A strong presumption of correctness attaches to a jury
verdict in Alabama, if the verdict passes the
'sufficiency test' presented by motions for directed
verdict and JNOV [now denominated as motions for a JML under
Rule 50, Ala. R. Civ. P.]. Christiansen v. Hall, 567
So.2d 1338, 1341 (Ala. 1990); Alpine Bay Resorts, Inc. v.
Wyatt, 539 So.2d 160 (Ala. 1988). This presumption of
correctness is further strengthened by a trial court's
denial of a motion for new trial. Christiansen, 567
So.2d at 1341. Denying, and to a more limited extent
granting, a motion for new trial is within the sound
discretion of the trial court. See, Jawad v.
Granade, 497 So.2d 471, 477 (Ala. 1986). This Court will
not reverse a judgment based on a jury verdict on the ground
that the evidence was insufficient unless the evidence, when
viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmovant, shows that
the verdict was 'plainly and palpably wrong and
unjust.' Christiansen, 567 So.2d at 1341."
Carter v. Henderson, 598 So.2d 1350, 1354 (Ala.
elements of a breach-of-contract claim under Alabama law are
(1) a valid contract binding the parties; (2) the
plaintiffs' performance under the contract; (3) the
defendant's nonperformance; and (4) resulting
damages.'" Shaffer v. Regions Fin. Corp.,
29 So.3d 872, 880 (Ala. 2009) (quoting Reynolds Metals
Co. v. Hill, 825 So.2d 100, 105 (Ala. 2002)). There was
no dispute that the parties had been bound by a valid
contract and that Golden had performed under the contract.
Moreover, the jury could have determined that, because
Velasquez had testified that she had not refused to pay the
$9, 540, Golden had not met his burden to prove her
"[I]t is the duty of the [trier of fact] to resolve
conflict in testimony and render judgment accordingly.
Jones v. LeFlore, 421 So.2d 1287 (Ala. Civ. App.
1982). Where the [trier of fact] resolves a factual issue on
conflicting evidence, the reviewing court may not reverse it
if there is any credible evidence to support the judgment.
Jones v. Jones, 470 So.2d 1207 (Ala. 1985)."
Big Thicket Broad. Co. of Alabama v. Santos, 594
So.2d 1241, 1243-44 (Ala. Civ. App. 1991). Based on the above
reasoning, the circuit court upheld the jury's verdict
and denied Golden's motion for a new trial. Such a
decision rests within the sound discretion of the trial
court. See Jawad v. Granade, 497 So.2d 471,
477 (Ala. 1986).
"This appeal is governed by certain well-established
principles. Foremost, perhaps, is the principle that trial
courts do have the power to grant motions for new trials in
order to prevent irrevocable damage. Such power should be
hesitantly exercised, because the verdict of a jury results
from one of the most precious rights in our system of
government, that is, the right of trial by jury. However,
coupled with this principle of law, is a consistent principle
that the power to set aside the verdict of a jury may be
exercised when it affirmatively appears that the ...