Medina County Courthouse

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Standard to be Applied in Civil Rule 50 Motions for Directed Verdict

Trial judges are often faced with the necessity of ruling on a motion for a directed verdict at the end of a party's case. An interesting discussion of the standard that is to be used by a trial judge in ruling on such a motion is found in Heath v. Teich, 2004-Ohio-3389. Here is a quote from that decision:

Pursuant to Civ.R. 50(A)(4), a motion for directed verdict should be granted if, after construing the evidence most strongly in favor of the party against whom the motion is directed, reasonable minds could come to but one conclusion upon the evidence submitted and that conclusion is adverse to such party. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 95 Ohio St.3d 512, 2002-Ohio-2842, at ¶3. The trial court is only required to discern whether there exists any evidence of substantive probative value that favors the position of the non-moving party. Id.; Civ.R. 50(A)(4). The requisite question to ask is: Was there sufficient material evidence presented at trial on this issue to create a factual question for the jury? See Malone v. Courtyard by Marriott L.P. (1996), 74 Ohio St.3d 440. In determining whether to direct a verdict, the trial court does not engage in a weighing of the evidence, nor does it evaluate the credibility of witnesses. Ruta v. Breckenridge-Remy Co. (1982), 69 Ohio St.2d 66, 67-68. Moreover, a motion for directed verdict presents a question of law and is reviewed by this court de novo. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., supra, at ¶3.

The way that I read the above is that once such a motion is made, a trial judge examines the evidence to determine whether the non-moving party has introduced evidence that, if believed by the trier of fact, would be sufficient to establish a factual issue for the jury. If the answer is "yes", then the motion is denied, and if the answer is "no", then the motion is granted.

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