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In re Baylor Medical Center at Garland – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In In re Baylor Med. Ctr. at Garland, 280 S.W.3d 227 (Tex. 2008), the Supreme Court of Texas considered whether a trial court can reconsider a grant of a motion for new trial.

In its analysis, the court held that a trial court can reconsider a grant of a motion for new trial. Id. at 231 (holding trial court has power to set aside new trial order).

The reasoning employed by the court to reach this conclusion, however, compels us to conclude that, even if a trial court has the authority to reconsider a grant of a motion to extend the post-judgment deadlines, such a reconsideration does not have the legal effect of setting the post-judgment deadlines back to their original deadlines.

In Baylor Medical, the trial court rendered a take-nothing judgment based on the jury's verdict. Id. at 228. Later, the trial court granted a motion for new trial. Id. After the trial court judge was succeeded, the new trial court judge reinstated the judgment on the jury verdict. Id.

Another motion to reconsider was filed, and the trial court once again granted the motion for new trial. Id. at 228-29.

At the time, the law in Texas provided that a new trial could not be "ungranted." Id. at 229. The Supreme Court of Texas determined that this ruling was based on language in a rule of civil procedure that had since been modified. Id. at 230.

The court reasoned that the continuance of this ruling despite the change in the language of the rules of civil procedure could have been "to prevent a situation where reinstatement of a previous judgment would prevent a party from having time to file an appeal." Id. at 231.

The court recognized that, if an order reversing the grant of a motion for new trial were considered to reinstate the original judgment--effectively rendering the grant of the new trial a nullity--then this procedural effect would deprive the party filing the motion the ability to appeal either order or any other preserved complaints. See id.

The court held this was not a concern, however, because the court had previously "clarified that 'a trial judge who modifies a judgment and then withdraws the modification has modified the judgment twice rather than never.'" Id.

In that case, following a defense verdict, the plaintiff was granted a new trial eighty-two days after the judgment, followed two months later by an order vacating the new trial order. Baylor, 280 S.W.3d at 228.

Shortly thereafter, a new trial was again granted. Id. at 228-29. The supreme court noted that rule 329b was amended effective January 1, 1981, and terminates the trial court's plenary power 30 days after all timely motions for new trial are overruled. Id. at 230.

However, ". . . there is no provision limiting its plenary power if such motions are granted." Id. "Plenary power of course expires only after final judgments, not vacated judgments." Id.

A new trial was granted in Baylor during the trial court's plenary jurisdiction. Baylor, 230 S.W.3d at 228.

"Federal courts and commentators agree: 'There is no sound reason why the court may not reconsider its ruling granting a new trial' at any time." Id. at 231.

The Texas Supreme Court considered when a trial court could "ungrant" a motion for new trial. Id. at 229.

Although prior cases had held that an order granting a motion for new trial could only be "ungranted" within 75 days of its signing, the supreme court explained that "when a new trial is granted, the case stands on the trial court's docket the same as though no trial had been granted" and, as a result, a trial court could reconsider its ruling granting a motion for new trial at any time. Id. at 229, 231.

The supreme court did not consider whether a case could be transferred to a different trial court upon granting a motion for new trial.