A new trial motion under Rule 59(a) in United States District Court is the topic of this blog post. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 59(a) authorizes the filing of a motion for a new trial on some or all of the issues. A motion for new trial can be only be filed using certain grounds and must be filed within 28 calendar days after the judgment is entered. However if the stakes are high enough filing a motion for new trial can be very useful. And a timely-filed new trial motion extends the time to file a notice of appeal under the provisions of Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a) until the entry of the order disposing of the motion for new trial.
The main grounds for a motion for new trial after a jury trial are (1) the verdict is against the weight of the evidence; (2) newly discovered evidence: (3) prejudicial conduct by the court or opposing counsel, and (4) juror misconduct although other grounds might apply in certain situations.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a) states that,
“(a) In General.
(1) Grounds for New Trial. The court may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the issues—and to any party—as follows:
(A) after a jury trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court; or
(B) after a nonjury trial, for any reason for which a rehearing has heretofore been granted in a suit in equity in federal court.
(2) Further Action After a Nonjury Trial. After a nonjury trial, the court may, on motion for a new trial, open the judgment if one has been entered, take additional testimony, amend findings of fact and conclusions of law or make new ones, and direct the entry of a new judgment.”
Rule 59(b) states that, ”(b) Time to File a Motion for a New Trial. A motion for a new trial must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment.”
Depending on the circumstances of any particular case a party may actually have more than 28 calendar days to file the motion for new trial as in order to start the clock running on the 28 day deadline requires a final judgment requiring a separate document under Rule 58(a) which is considered entered when the judgment is both entered in the civil docket under Rule 79(a) and either (a) it is set forth on a separate document or (b) 150 days have run from entry of the judgment in the civil docket, whichever occurs first. See Rule 58(c)(2).
The moving party must meet their burden of showing sufficient facts and evidence to support their grounds and must show that a miscarriage of justice will result if the judgment is not vacated and a new trial granted.
For example a party requesting a new trial on the grounds that the verdict is against the weight of the evidence has the burden of convincing the judge that the verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence or is based on evidence which is false or will result in a miscarriage of justice.
Parties requesting a new trial on the grounds of newly discovered evidence must show that the evidence in question was discovered after the date of the trial; that the moving party exercised due diligence to discover the evidence before the end of the trial; the evidence is material and not merely cumulative or impeaching; and the new evidence would likely have changed the outcome of the case.
A party requesting a new trial on the grounds of prejudicial conduct by the judge or opposing counsel must show that they were so severely prejudiced that they were prevented from having a fair trial. For example it is improper for a judgment to comment on any ultimate factual issues such as the issue of which party was negligent, which party breached the contract, etc. And a new trial can be ordered in cases where the opposing counsel committed misconduct at the trial that made it reasonably certain that the verdict was influence by the prejudicial statements. An opening or closing statement incorrectly expands any potential grounds of liability or takes away any benefit the aggrieved party may have won a prior motion such as a motion for partial summary judgment, violating an in limine order or the Federal Rules of Evidence.
The party requesting a new trial on the grounds of juror misconduct must show that the juror misconduct resulted in them suffering prejudice which could include extraneous information obtained by a juror from friends or relatives or a juror introducing facts or evidence acquired outside of the courtroom during jury deliberations.
Attorneys or parties that would like to view a portion of a 16 page sample motion for new trial in United States District Court containing brief instructions, a memorandum of points and authorities with citations to case law and statutory authority, sample declaration and proof of service by mail can see below.
The author of this blog post, Stan Burman, is an entrepreneur and freelance paralegal that has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995 and has created over 300 sample legal documents for California and Federal litigation. If you are in need of assistance with any California or Federal litigation matters, Mr. Burman is available on a freelance basis. Mr. Burman may be contacted by e-mail at DivParalgl@yahoo.com for more information. He accepts payments through PayPal which means that you can pay using most credit or debit cards.
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