A judgment notwithstanding the verdict is a judgement entered by a judge after a jury has returned a verdict that cannot reasonably be supported by the evidence presented in court, or that is paradoxical or contradicts itself. It is also known as JNOV or judgment non obstante verdicto.
A motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict asks the court to ignore the jury’s verdict for one party and instead enter a verdict in favor of the party making the motion. It is usually based on the argument that no reasonable jury could have reached the conclusions this jury reached, based on the evidence available in the case and the law that governs the case.
In this way, a judgment notwithstanding the verdict is similar to a directed verdict or a judgment as a matter of law. All three depend on the argument that no reasonable jury could have returned a particular result and therefore the result should be overturned. The point in time at which a party makes this argument – before trial, during trial, or after the verdict has been reached – determines whether the argument is called a motion for a directed verdict, a motion for summary judgment, or a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict.
Like motions for directed verdicts, motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict are made far more often than they are granted. Merely making the motion is often enough to preserve a particular issue for appeal, ensuring that the losing party can take the case to the appeals court for a “second look” even if the judge in the trial believes that a reasonable jury could have reached the verdict the jury actually did reach in the case.
Motions notwithstanding the verdict may also be used to attack a judgment amount for money damages, especially if the damages amount seems unreasonably high, does not appear to be based on the evidence in the case, or appears to contain an amount for punitive damages even though the law that governs the case does not allow the jury to provide a punitive damages payment. In some cases, a motion notwithstanding the verdict is a quicker and cheaper way to address a confusing or inconsistent damages award without the time and expense of filing an appeal.
A judge in a civil case, such as a personal injury or other torts case, may enter a judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of either party. For instance, the judge may find in favor of the plaintiff even though the jury unreasonably found in favor of the defendant, or the judge may find in favor of the defendant even though the jury unreasonably found in favor of the plaintiff. However, a judge in a criminal case may not enter a judgment notwithstanding the verdict to convict a criminal defendant after a jury has found that defendant to be not guilty. To do so would violate the Constitutional protection against double jeopardy. Criminal judges may, however, grant a motion to set aside judgment, similar to JNOV, that acquits a defendant after the jury has convicted, if no reasonable jury could have found the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.