Conditional grant of new trial a ‘nullity with no legal effect;’ renders plaintiff’s new trial motion denied by operation of law.
A jury returned a car-accident verdict in favor of plaintiff Keely Maroney, apportioning 60 percent of the fault to defendant Asaf Iacobsohn. Maroney served Iacobsohn with a post-judgment motion, which included a file-stamped copy of the judgment as an exhibit. Twenty-two days later, Maroney filed an intention to move for a new trial. 60 days later, the trial court considered the motion. Unsure as to whether its jurisdictional power to grant such a motion had expired, the lower granted a conditional order for new trial, conditioned upon an appellate court ruling that the lower court’s jurisdiction hadn’t lapsed. Both plaintiff and defendant appeal from the conditional order.
Original jury judgment affirmed; plaintiff’s motion for new trial dismissed and defendant’s appeal dismissed. Cal. Code of Civil Procedure section 659 requires a party intending to move for a new trial to file a notice of intention within the earlier of “15 days of the date of…service upon him or her by any party of written notice of entry of judgment, or…180 days after” the entry of judgment. Similarly, section 660 provides that a court’s jurisdiction to rule over motions for new trials expires “60 days from and after service on the moving party by any party of written notice of the entry of judgment.” In short, both sections require service upon the party moving for a new trial. Here, because service of the motion to tax costs (which included the copy of the judgment) was served by Maroney, who was the one seeking a new trial, the jurisdictional limits were not triggered and the trial court had jurisdiction to grant a new trial. However, the trial court’s conditional grant was, in essence, a “nullity with no legal effect,” and, therefore, because the trial court failed to enter a valid new trial order within the time allowed by section 660, Maroney’s motion for new trial was denied by operation of law and the original judgment must be affirmed.