Civil Procedure Outline - Judgment as a Matter of Law/New Trial

**Abridged JMOL/New Trial**

  1. Rule 50 allows a judge to decide a case himself through JMOL if no reasonable jury could find for a party. (same standard as SJ!)
    • However, the judge is not permitted to weigh the evidence or assess the credibility of witnesses. Judge must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party (Reeves).
    • JMOL is constitutional under the Seventh Amendment as long as the court does not weigh the evidence or simply second-guess the jury's judgment.
  2. Appellate courts can grant JMOL as well if it throws out some crucial evidence was improperly admitted by the trial court. (Weisgram)
  3. Rule 59(b) allows a party to move for a new trial; new trial motions will be granted to redress prejudicial errors. Mostly, they are given if the jury verdict is "against the weight of the evidence."
    • When district court is "convinced that the jury has reached a seriously erroneous result or that the verdict is a miscarriage of justice." (Tesser, Smith)
    • Judge is allowed to weigh the evidence, no favorable light requirement. (Tesser, DLC Mngt.)

**Full JMOL/New Trial**

  1. Directed Verdict Motion (JMOL before verdict) (Rule 50(a))
    1. The purpose of a directed verdict motion is to ask the trial judge to take the case away from the jury, on the ground that the evidence is insufficient to support a verdict for the P.
      1. Motion should be granted where there is "no legally sufficient evidentiary basis" for the jury to find for the party opposing the motion.
        1. Judge should not decide whether D's evidence is stronger than P's, only whether a jury could rationally find for the P on the evidence before it.
        2. Judge must assume that the jury will construe the evidence in favor of the nonmoving party and not weight the credibility of witnesses.
        3. If certain testimony would support two inferences, one that supports recovery and one that does not, the judge should assume the jury will make the inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.
        4. However, judge should consider the "uncontradicted, unimpeached evidence" for the movant. 
      1. This does not disrupt the Seventh Amendment since it only guarantees a jury decision where there is a legitimate dispute in the evidence, where a meaningful dispute exists about whether the facts the P must establish are true.
        1. If there is a such a conflict in the evidence, so that reasonable jurors could find for either party, the jury should resolve the conflict by "finding the facts."
        2. If the P has no evidence, or clearly insufficient evidence, to establish a required element of the claim, courts have held that the jury has no legitimate role to play, because its constitutional role as the finder of facts is not required.


    1. Burdens on the Plaintiff
      1. "Burden of Production" - P bears the burden to convince the judge that their evidence is strong enough on each element of their claim to support a rational verdict in their favor.
        1. Judge must ask whether a jury, looking at the evidence, could rationally be convinced of it. (Is the decision in the debatable range?)
        2. If the judge concludes that the P has met the burden of production on each element of their claim, JMOL will be denied, case go to the jury.
      1. "Burden of Proof" - P bears the burden of proving their case by a preponderance of the evidence (stricter burden)


    1. Reviewing JMOL before verdict on appeal - If a JMOL before verdict is overturned, the case must be remanded for a new trial. Thus, trial courts are more wary of granting them because of the possibility for waste.


  2. Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict (JMOL after verdict) (Rule 50(b))
    1. The standard for granting the motion after verdict is the same as the motion made before the case goes to the jury--that the evidence is too weak to support a rational verdict for the P. ("No rational jury could find for the victor.")
    2. Reviewing JMOL after verdict on appeal--if the appellate court finds that the evidence was sufficient to support a finding for the P, can just overrule the trial judge's JMOL decision and enter the judgment based upon the jury's decision.
    3. Pre-requisites for Rule 50(b) motion
      1. Motion must be made within 10 days of the jury's verdict for the P.
      2. Motion must be made under Rule 50(a) before the case goes to the jury. Reasons...
        1. Wake up call to P's lawyer, can reopen case to get in the insufficient evidence
          1. Thus, a lawyer cannot use new reasoning for a Rule 50(b) motion not used in his 50(a) motion.
        1. Reconsidering the jury's verdict violates the Seventh Amendment unless the judge reserved the right to do so on a motion made before the case went to the jury.
    1. Rules 50(a) and 50(b) do not apply in judge-tried cases.
    2. Weisgram v. Marley Co.
      1. Product liability suit where P used expert testimony. On appeal, the expert testimony was thrown out under Daubert.
      • FRCP 50 permits an appellate court to direct the entry of judgment as a matter of law when it determines that evidence was erroneously admitted at trial, and that the remaining, properly admitted evidence is insufficient to constitute a submissible case.
      • If a court of appeals determines that the district court erroneously denied a motion for judgment as a matter of law, the appellate court may…
        • Order a new trial by request or on its own motion.
        • Remand the case for the trial court to decide whether a new trial or entry of judgment for the D is warranted.
        • Direct the entry of judgment as a matter of law for the D.
      • Put all of your best evidence forward in trial since some might be thrown out on appeal.



  3. Motions for a New Trial (Rule 59(b))
    1. Motion may be filed in lieu of or as an alternative to a postverdict motion for JMOL. However, it is different from a JMOL in two ways.
      1. Remedy is a new trial, not a judgment in favor of he moving party.
      2. Standards for granting a new trial are significantly more flexible than the "no reasonable juror" standard applicable to JMOLs.
    1. Rule 59(b) provides that a new trial can be granted
      1. After a jury trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court; OR
      2. After a nonjury trial, for any reason for which a rehearing has heretofore been granted in a suit in equity in federal court.
    1. Typical grounds include:
      1. Errors in the jury selection process
      2. Erroneous evidentiary rulings
      3. Erroneous jury instructions
      4. Verdict as being against the weight of the evidence
        1. The judge may consider the credibility of the evidence; unlike JMOL motions where judge is asking whether the jury could find for the P if they believe the evidence, judges in new trial motions must ask whether the jury was seriously wrong in choosing to believe that evidence.
        2. Much more intrusive on the role of jury as fact finder.
      1. Excessiveness or inadequacy of the verdict
      2. Misconduct by the judge, jury, attorneys, parties, or witnesses
      3. Newly discovered evidence
    1. Tesser v. Board of Education
      1. Crazy teacher claimed she was discriminated against because she was Jewish. Jury unanimously found that she hadn't proven her case against any of the Ds.
      2. District Court refused to grant JNOV or a new trial. Appellate Ct affirmed.
      3. Holding:
        • In order to win a motion for judgment n.o.v. (JMOL), the party must show that there is such a complete absence of evidence supporting the verdict that the jury's findings could only have been the result of sheer surmise and conjecture or that there is such an overwhelming amount of evidence in favor of the movant that reasonable and fair minded persons could not arrive at a verdict against it.
          • Judge must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict winner.
        • In order to win a motion for a new trial, a party must convince the court that the jury has reached a "seriously erroneous result" or that the verdict is a miscarriage of justice.
          • Judge can weight the evidence himself, not view it in the light most favorable to the verdict winner.