Massachusetts Civil Procedure Rule 50: Motion for a Directed Verdict and for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict
(a) Motion for Directed Verdict: When Made; Effect. A party may move for a directed verdict at the close of the evidence offered by an opponent, and may offer evidence in the event that the motion is not granted, without having reserved the right so to do and to the same extent as if the motion had not been made. A party may also move for a directed verdict at the close of all the evidence. A motion for a directed verdict which is not granted is not a waiver of trial by jury even though all parties to the action have moved for directed verdicts. A motion for a directed verdict shall state the specific grounds therefor. The order of the court granting a motion for a directed verdict is effective without any assent of the jury.
(b) Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict. Whenever a motion for a directed verdict made at the close of all the evidence is denied or for any reason is not granted, the court is deemed to have submitted the action to the jury subject to a later determination of the legal questions raised by the motion. Not later than 10 days after entry of judgment, a party who has moved for a directed verdict may serve a motion to have the verdict and any judgment entered thereon set aside and to have judgment entered in accordance with the motion for a directed verdict; or if a verdict was not returned such party, within 10 days after the jury has been discharged, may serve a motion for judgment in accordance with the motion for a directed verdict. A motion for a new trial may be joined with this motion, or a new trial may be prayed for in the alternative. If a verdict was returned the court may allow the judgment to stand or may reopen the judgment and either order a new trial or direct the entry of judgment as if the requested verdict had been directed. If no verdict was returned the court may direct the entry of judgment as if the requested verdict had been directed or may order a new trial.
(1) If the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, provided for in subdivision (b) of this rule is granted, the court shall also rule on the motion for a new trial, if any, by determining whether it should be granted if the judgment is thereafter vacated or reversed, and shall specify the grounds for granting or denying the motion for the new trial. If the motion for a new trial is thus conditionally granted, the order thereon does not affect the finality of the judgment. In case the motion for a new trial has been conditionally granted and the judgment is reversed on appeal, the new trial shall proceed unless the appellate court has otherwise ordered. In case the motion for a new trial has been conditionally denied, the appellee on appeal may assert error in that denial; and if the judgment is reversed on appeal, subsequent proceedings shall be in accordance with the order of the appellate court.
(2) The party whose verdict has been set aside on motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict may serve a motion for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59 not later than 10 days after entry of the judgment notwithstanding the verdict.
(d) Same: Denial of Motion. If the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict is denied, the party who prevailed on that motion may, as appellee, assert grounds entitling him to a new trial in the event the appellate court concludes that the trial court erred in denying the motion for judgment not-withstanding the verdict. If the appellate court reverses the judgment, nothing in this rule precludes it from determining that the appellee is entitled to a new trial, or from directing the trial court to determine whether a new trial shall be granted.
Amended October 1, 1998, effective November 2, 1998.
Reporter's Notes (1998) Prior to amendments in 1998, the language of Rule 50(b) provided that a party may "move" for judgment notwithstanding the verdict within ten days of entry of judgment. the Appeals Court has construed this language to require service of the motion within the ten-day period, rather than filing. Russell v. Pride Convenience, Inc., 37 Mass. App. Ct. 502 (1994). Filing in court should be made within a reasonable time after service. Mass. R. Civ. P. 5(d). The Supreme Judicial Court has endorsed this interpretation. F.W. Webb Co. v. Averett, 422 Mass. 625, 629, n.5(1996).
The 1998 amendment to Rule 50(b) adopts this interpretation by deleting the term "move" and substituting language requiring service of the motion within ten days. The change is not intended to alter existing practice. Rather, it serves to harmonize the language of Rule 50(b) with that of Rule 59, the latter requiring a motion for new trial to be "served" not later than ten days after judgment.
(1996) With the merger of the District Court rules into the Mass.R.Civ.P., Rule 50 has been made applicable to the District Court, to the extent that Massachusetts law permits trial by jury in District Court civil actions.
(1973) Rule 50(a) is patterned upon Federal Rule 50(a), with the first sentence revised for clarity. It liberalizes the Massachusetts practice governing defendant's motion for a directed verdict at the close of the plaintiffs evidence. Formerly, the judge could refuse to rule upon the defendant's motion unless the defendant rested his case upon his opponent's evidence, thereby surrendering his right to put in his own case. See Hurley v. O'Sullivan, 137 Mass. 86, 87 (1884). "The defendant was not entitled to a ruling upon plaintiffs case, reserving to himself the tight to put in his own case afterwards," McMahon v. Tyng, 96 Mass. 167, 169 (1867). Under Rule 50(a), the defendant retains just that right. The judge may still refuse to decide such motion when made, but must rule on it at a later stage of the trial.
"Plaintiff says that 50(a) itself provides no right of reservation or later determination of the motion by the court. The answer to this contention is that nowhere in 50(a) is there evidence of any intention to take from the court its power to reserve a motion at the end of plaintiffs case and later dispose of that motion. . . . [W]here the court has taken a motion under advisement under 50(a) it not only can but must decide the issue." Sattler v. Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., 18 F.R.D. 271, 274 (W.D.La.1955); see also, Stevens v. G.L. Rugo & Sons Inc., 115 F.Supp. 61, 62 (D.Mass.1952), reversed on other grounds, 209 F.2d 135 (1st Cir.1953).
Until now, the only formal requirements for a motion for directed verdict were that it be in writing, (Super.Ct.R. 71), and that if the declaration contained more than one count the motion specify the particular count upon which a verdict is sought. The provision of Rule 50(a) that a motion for a directed verdict "state the specific grounds therefor," although often strongly advocated by the Supreme Judicial Court, is new to Massachusetts practice. "When a judge is not prepared to grant such a motion, a prudent practice for him to adopt is to require the moving party to state all the grounds upon which he relies in support of the motion as otherwise an exception to the denial of the motion leaves open every ground in support of the motion even though not mentioned or even thought of at the time of the trial", Trites v. City of Melrose, 318 Mass. 378, 380 (1945).
The motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict is new to Massachusetts practice. Unlike practice under former G.L. c. 281, § 120 (entry of verdict or finding in accordance with leave reserved), a motion for judgment n.o.v. does not depend upon the judge's discretionary reservation of leave to review the sufficiency of either party's case. Rule 50(b) presumes such a reservation in every case in which an unsuccessful motion for directed verdict has been made at the close of all the evidence.
The provisions of Rule 50(b) make a party's motion for directed verdict a prerequisite to his motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. In Massachusetts, no preliminary motion was required before a party could move that a verdict be entered in his favor under leave reserved. Interstate Busses Corp. v. McKenna, 329 Mass. 1, 2 (1952).
There is no Massachusetts practice similar to the provisions of Rule 50(c) and (d). They aim at expediting judicial administration by requiring the trial judge to make "if-it-should-be-determined-I-have-erred" rulings with respect to a motion for new trial made concurrently with the motion for judgment n.o.v.