Unitherm Food Systems, Inc. v. Swift-Eckrich, Inc – 1/27/2006

January 27, 2006

United States Supreme Court Clarifies That a Rule 50(b) Motion Must Be Filed to Preserve Sufficiency of Evidence Challenges for Appeal.

In a 7-2 decision, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion resolving an inter-circuit split concerning when a Rule 50(b) motion must be filed to preserve for appeal a challenge based on the sufficiency of the evidence. The Court explained that Rule 50 establishes two stages for challenging the sufficiency of the evidence in a civil jury trial. Rule 50(a) allows a challenge prior to the case’s submission to the jury, authorizing the district court to grant the motion at the court’s discretion. Rule 50(b), by contrast, sets forth the requirements for renewing the challenge after the verdict and entry of judgment. The Court held that a party’s failure to file a Rule 50(b) postverdict motion deprives an appellate court of the power to direct the district court to enter judgment contrary to the one entered. It also deprives an appellate court of the power to order a new trial based on the sufficiency of the evidence.

Justice Thomas authored the decision. Justices Stevens and Kennedy dissented.

NOTE: AZAPP does not normally post United States Supreme Court opinions, but posted this one because of its significance to appellate procedure in federal courts.