What is a Judgement notwithstanding the Verdict?
A judgment notwithstanding the verdict is a judgment that can be rendered at the conclusion of a jury trial, after a jury has returned a verdict. Judgement notwithstanding the verdict is sometimes referred to as a JNOV or a judgment non obstante veredicto. A JNOV essentially reverses the jury’s verdict instead of approving, it in order to prevent injustice.
When is a Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict Appropriate?
In a civil trial, the presiding judge may overrule the jury’s verdict if the judge determines that no reasonable jury could have reached the jury’s verdict. When determining if a reasonable jury could reach the jury’s verdict the judge considers whether there was sufficient evidence to support each element of the plaintiff’s claim or the defendant’s affirmative defense. The judge will also consider whether the jury correctly applied the law. Finally, a judge can issue a JNOV when the jury’s verdict contradicts itself.
In civil trials, Judges can grant JNOVs to the plaintiff and the defendant. In criminal trials, the judge cannot enter a JNOV of “guilty” because this would violate the defendant’s sixth amendment rights.
How is a Judgement notwithstanding the Verdict Different from a Directed Verdict?
A JNOV is similar to a directed verdict. There are four main similarities. First, both of these motions are utilized during a jury trial. In addition, both motions use a reasonable jury standard. Third, judges are hesitant to grant JNOVs and directed verdicts. Judges look very carefully at the evidence before granting either of these motions. This means that the party requesting a JNOV or a directed verdict has a very high burden to show that they are entitled to a JNOV or a directed verdict. Finally, JNOVs and directed verdicts are often used when a party wants to preserve an error for appeal. An appellate court cannot review an issue unless it was brought up at the trial court. As a result, parties ask for JNOVs and directed verdicts in order to preserve the issue for appeal.
The main difference concerns timing. If the judge grants a directed verdict, the jury must return a verdict for the moving party. However, a JNOV occurs after the jury has already returned a verdict.