Judgment as a matter of law
in the United States
|Resolution without trial|
Judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) is a motion made by a party, during trial, claiming the opposing party has insufficient evidence to reasonably support its case. JMOL is also known as a directed verdict, which it has replaced in American federal courts.
JMOL is similar to judgment on the pleadings and summary judgment, all of which test the factual sufficiency of a claim. Judgment on the pleadings is a motion made after pleading and before discovery; summary judgment happens after discovery and before trial; JMOL occurs during trial.
In United States federal courts, JMOL is a creation of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 50. JMOL is decided by the standard of whether a reasonable jury could find in favor of the party opposing the JMOL motion. If there is no evidence to support a reasonable conclusion for the opposing party, judgment is entered by the court and the case is over. If there is sufficient evidence to make a reasonable conclusion in favor of the opposing party, but there is equally strong evidence to support an opposite conclusion, the party with the burden of persuasion fails.
Timing is very important in making a motion for JMOL; the motion can only be made once the opposing party has presented its case. In civil cases, the plaintiff presents his/her case, then the defendant presents his/her case, then the plaintiff may present a rebuttal. So, once the plaintiff has presented his/her case, the defendant may move for JMOL, but the plaintiff may not. Once the defendant has finished presenting his/her case, the plaintiff may move for JMOL, and so may the defendant.
JMOL motions may also be made after the verdict is returned, where they are called "renewed" motions for judgment as a matter of law (RJMOL), but the motion is still commonly known by its former name, judgment notwithstanding verdict, or j.n.o.v. (from the English judgment and the Latin non obstante veredicto). However, in order to move for j.n.o.v., the movant must have moved for a JMOL before the verdict as well. This procedural quirk is necessary because it is considered a violation of the 7th Amendment for a judge to overturn a jury verdict. Instead, the judge is said in a j.n.o.v. to be reexamining not the verdict, but his previous rejection of JMOL.