Judgment notwithstanding the verdict in State Courts

Judgment notwithstanding the verdict is where a judge decides that the jury reached a verdict that is so obviously wrong that the judge may substitute his own judgment for the jury’s verdict.  Judgment notwithstanding the verdict is very unusual and only where a judge determines that no rational jury could have reached that verdict.

For example, let’s say a plaintiff sues a defendant for breaking a contract.  But during the trial the plaintiff presents no evidence that he and the defendant ever entered into a contract.  Incredibly, the jury finds in favor of the plaintiff.

The defendant could then move the court (ask the court) for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict.  If the judge decides that the jury’s verdict was irrational, he could rule that the defendant is not liable.  The verdict is nullified and replaced with the judge’s decision.  The judge was not just disagreeing with the jury.  The judge was saying that because there was no evidence that the parties ever had a contract, it was irrational for the jury to find in favor of the plaintiff.

Federal Courts are Different

If you are looking for judgment notwithstanding the verdict in the federal courts, you won’t find it.  Instead, federal courts provide for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Rule 50 provides that a party can ask the court for judgment in its favor before the judge gives the case to the jury.  If the judge denies the motion then that party can again ask for judgment as a matter of law after the jury reaches its verdict.  This is very similar to a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict because the party is asking the judge to disregard the verdict and enter his own judgment.  The court may grant the motion if  “no reasonable jury” could have reached that jury’s verdict.

Here is an older video on judgment as a matter of law in the federal courts: