RULE 50. JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW IN ACTIONS TRIED BY JURY
(a) Judgment as a Matter of Law.
(1) If during a trial by jury a party has been fully heard on
with respect to an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to have found find for that party on with respect to that issue, the court may determine the issue against that party and may grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against that party on any with respect to a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim, or third party claim or defense that cannot under the controlling law be maintained or defeated without a favorable finding on that issue.
(2) Motions for judgment as a matter of law may be made at any time before submission of the case to the jury. Such a motion shall specify the judgment sought and the law and the facts on which the moving party is entitled to the judgment.
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Rule 50 was amended, effective January 1, 1979; September 1, 1983; March 1, 1990; March 1, 1994; March 1, 1997.
Rule 50 is nearly identical to Rule 50, FRCivP. Subdivision (b) was amended in 1983, effective September 1, 1983, to provide that a party who has moved for a directed verdict may move to have the verdict and judgment set aside and to have judgment entered in accordance with his motion for a directed verdict not later than 10 days after "notice of" entry of judgment, rather than entry of judgment. The same change was made in subdivision (c)(2).
It is emphasized that unless counsel informs the court that a ruling on both motions for a new trial and judgment notwithstanding the verdict is to be made, it will be considered a waiver of whatever motion the court did not rule on. Both motions must be pursued in the trial court. Anderson v. Kroh, 301 N.W.2d 359 (N.D. 1981).
Subdivision (d) was amended, effective March 1, 1990. The amendment is technical in nature and no substantive change is intended.
Rule 50 was revised, effective March 1, 1994, to track the 1991 federal revision. The revision abandons the terminology "directed verdict" and "judgment notwithstanding the verdict." Instead, the terminology "judgment as a matter of law" is substituted. In determining whether to grant judgment as a matter of law, the standard remains the same as the standard for determining whether a directed verdict or judgment notwithstanding the verdict should be granted. The standard was enunciated in Anderson v. Kroh, 301 N.W.2d 359 (N.D. 1981) as follows:
"When ruling on a motion for a directed verdict or for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the court must decide whether the evidence is such that, without weighing the credibility of the witnesses or otherwise considering the weight of the evidence, reasonable men could reach but one conclusion as to the verdict, or, otherwise stated, whether the evidence, viewed most favorably to the party against whom the motion is made, and giving that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences from the evidence, compels a result which no reasonable person might differ."
Under revised paragraph (a)(1) a
defending party no longer has to wait until the party with the burden of proof completes its case to move for dismissal. A defending Eitherparty may move for judgment as a matter of law anytime after the party with the burden of proof has been fully heard on a fact essential to that party's case an issue.
Paragraph (a)(2) retains the requirement that a motion for judgment be made prior to the close of trial, subject to renewal after a jury verdict has been rendered. The moving party must articulate the basis on which a judgment as a matter of law might be rendered. The purpose of these requirements is to allow the responding party a chance to cure any overlooked deficiency in proof if the trial court permits. The decision to reopen a case, and to admit additional evidence after a party has rested, is in the sound discretion of the trial court. Leno v. Ehli, 339 N.W.2d 92, 95 (N.D. 1983).
Amended subdivision (b) retains the concept of the former rule that the post-verdict motion is a renewal of an earlier motion made at the close of the evidence. A post-trial motion for judgment can be granted only on grounds advanced in the pre-verdict motion. The provision retains the former requirement that a post-trial motion under the rule must be made within 10 days after notice of entry of a contrary judgment.
Subdivisions (c) and (d) were amended to conform the language to the change in diction set forth in subdivisions (a) and (b).
Sources: Procedure Committee Minutes of September 28-29, 1995, page 17; April 29-30, 1993, pages 9-10; January 28-29, 1993, page 8; April 20, 1989, page 2; December 3, 1987, page 11; September 30-October 1, 1982, pages 6-8; January 17-18, 1980, pages 3-4; November 29-30, 1979, page 13; May 25-26, 1978, pages 26-29; January 12-13, 1978, pages 11-12; September 15-16, 1977, pages 24-26; Rule 50, FRCivP; Rules 50.02, 59.02 Minn. Rules of Civil Procedure.
Superseded: Sections 28-1509, 28-1510, NDRC 1943, and 28-18-06, NDCC.
Considered: Section 28-27-29.1, NDCC.
Cross Reference: Rule 59 (New Trials -- Amendments of Judgments), NDRCivP.