Judgment as a Matter of Law


A.  Judgment as a Matter of Law

The motion formerly known as “motion for a directed verdict.” Some state courts still call it that.

1. The moving party must specify:

a. the judgment sought, and

b. the facts and law on which it is entitled to the judgment.

2. Standard: there must be no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for the nonmoving party on the given issue.

a. The court must view all the evidence, and all inferences from the evidence, in the light most favorable to the party opposing JMOL.

b. The court may not “weigh” the evidence. Specifically this means that

i. the court may not evaluate the credibility of witnesses, and

ii. the court may not decide whether one party’s version of the facts is more credible than the other’s.

3. If the moving party has the burden of proof (usually this means the Plaintiff), its evidence must be so strong and compelling that the jury could only find in its favor.

4. If the moving party does not have the burden of proof (usually this is the Defendant), it needs to show that the opposing party has no substantial evidence that would allow a jury to find in its favor.

5. Timing

A motion for JMOL may be made at any time before the case is submitted to the jury.  However, the party opposing the motion must have been fully heard on the issue, so the motion can only be made after the opposing party has had an opportunity to present evidence.

But note that in order to preserve the right to a Renewed JMOL (also known as a Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict, see below), the moving party must present the motion for JMOL at the close of all evidence.

B. Renewed Judgement as a Matter of Law: Rule 50(b)

The motion formerly known as “motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict (JNOV).” This is the same thing as a JMOL (see above for the standard), except the timing.

A RJMOL/JNOV is presented after the jury reaches a verdict. It is essentially the judge’s conclusion that the jury reached a verdict that no reasonable person could have reached (i.e., the jury verdict grossly contradicts the evidence).

Why the “renewed” requirement? The Supreme court found that the old JNOV violated the 7th Amendment right to jury trial. Slocum v. New York Life Insurance, 228 U.S. 364. Later, in Baltimore & Carolina Line v. Redman, 295 U.S. 654, the Court held that a JNOV was permissible if the motion for JMOL had been made before the case was given to the jury. The idea is that the judge ruling on a JNOV is actually making a delayed ruling on a JMOL.

Timing: The RJMOL/JNOV must be presented within 28 days of entry of judgment.

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