POST-TRIAL PRACTICE IS LEGALESE FOR "CLEANING UP THE MESS"
A COLLABORATIVE STUDY GUIDE; TWO of THREE
Written by the Minnesota Third Judicial District, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., & The United Way of Olmsted County
Illustrated by Thomas P. Kelly & Legal Assistance of Olmsted County
POST-TRIAL PRACTICE IS LEGALESE FOR "CLEANING UP THE MESS"
A COLLABORATIVE STUDY GUIDE; TWO of THREE
Written by the Minnesota Third Judicial District, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., & The United Way of Olmsted County
Illustrated by Thomas P. Kelly & Legal Assistance of Olmsted County
II. MOTIONS AFTER TRIAL
At the conclusion of a trial, when the decision has been rendered, the stage is set for true post-trial motions.
These include motions for new trial, motions for amended findings, and motions for judgment as a matter of
law (previously known as motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict).
A. MOTION FOR A NEW TRIAL
In Sauter v. Wasemiller, 389 N.W.2d 200 (Minn. 1986), the Minnesota Supreme Court carefully
re-examined the rule limiting appellate review in the absence of post-trial motions and re-affirmed
the rule and the principles behind it.
The Minnesota Supreme Court recently clarified the Sauter rule in Alpha Real Estate Co. v. Delta
Dental Plan, 664 N.W.2d 303 (Minn. 2003), and held that the Sauter rule does not apply to substantive
questions of law properly raised during trial.
The court specifically held that “[w]hile permissive, motions for a new trial . . . are not a prerequisite
for appellate review of substantive questions of law when a genuine issue of law is properly raised
and considered at the district court level.” Id. at 310.
The court reasoned that “[o]ne purpose for requiring post-trial motions is to flesh out the reasoning
behind a district court’s ruling.”
Where the parties raised an issue multiple times, the court had ample time to consider its reasoning
on an issue and where “a new trial would not alter the court’s conclusions of law; there is no evidence
to exclude, no erroneous jury instructions to correct, and no trial procedures to alter.”
Another opportunity to expand on reasoning is not needed. The court concluded “that, while permissive,
motions for a new trial pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P. 59.01 are not a prerequisite for appellate review of
substantive questions of law when a genuine issue of law is properly raised and considered at the district
court level.” Id. at 311.
The court explained the difference between substantive and procedural law
in a footnote, stating that substantive law is “the part of the law that creates,
defines, and regulates the rights, duties and powers of parties. Id. at n.5.
SUBSTANTIVE CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
REACHED BY THE DISTRICT COURT TO
WHICH APPELLATE COURTS NEED NOT
In contrast, procedural law is defined as “the rules that prescribe the steps for
having a right or duty judicially enforced, as opposed to the law that defines the
specific rights or duties themselves.” Id.
REQUIRE POST TRIAL MOTIONS
FOR APPELLATE REVIEW
Thus, the court differentiated between procedural matters within the district court’s discretion that require post-trial
motions for appellate review, and substantive conclusions of law reached by the district court to which appellate courts
need not give deference. Id. at 310.
Appellate courts review substantive questions of law de novo; they review discretionary rulings for abuse of discretion.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
“[D]ecisions by judges are traditionally divided into three categories,
denominated questions of law (reviewable de novo),
questions of fact (reviewable for clear error), and
matters of discretion (reviewable for abuse of discretion).”
See Harman v. Apfel, 211 F.3d 1172, 1174 (9th Cir. 2000)
(quotation marks and citation omitted).
The selection of the appropriate standard of review is contextual.
See United States v. Mateo-Mendez, 215 F.3d 1039, 1042 (9th Cir. 2000).
For example, the de novo standard applies when issues of law predominate
in the district court’s decision. Id. When a mixed question of law and fact is
presented, the standard of review turns on whether factual matters or legal
See id.; see also Holly D. v. California Inst. of Tech., 339 F.3d 1158, 1180 n.27
(9th Cir. 2003) (noting court would apply different standards of review
depending on the district court’s intention);
Navellier v. Sletten, 262 F.3d 923, 944 (9th Cir. 2001) (noting the “standard
of review on appeal . . . depends on the nature of the claimed error.”).
An appeal from a judgment where the appellant has not moved for a new trial presents
to the appellate courts only the questions of whether the evidence sustains the findings
of fact, and whether such findings sustain the conclusions of law and the judgment.
Gruenhagen v. Larson, 310 Minn. 454, 246 N.W.2d 565 (1976);
Meiners v. Kennedy, 221 Minn. 6, 20 N.W.2d 539 (1945);
Potvin v. Potvin, 177 Minn. 53, 224 N.W. 461 (1929).
This rule applies whether trial is to the court or a jury. Exceptions to this rule are rare, and
generally involve some error in the trial proceedings that is so fundamental it effectively
destroys the fairness of the proceedings.
Lindstrom v. Yellow Taxi Co., 298 Minn. 224, 214 N.W.2d 672 (1974).
REVIEW OF ERROR
ERROR n. Black's Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004)
Cautious counsel should assume that unless a new trial motion is made, the scope of review
is limited to whether the evidence sustains the findings of fact, and whether the findings
support the conclusions of law and judgment.
While some exception to the general rule requiring such a motion might apply, when all is
said and done, practitioners should not count on being able to raise any issue relating to the
trial of a case without having brought a new trial motion.
The motion for “new trial” must in fact follow an actual trial in the lower court.
If no trial ever took place (i.e., dismissal prior to trial, summary judgment, etc.), a motion for
a “new” trial is a misnomer, and an order denying such a motion has no effect, and, more
importantly, is not appealable.
Frontier Lumber & Hardware, Inc. v. Dickey, 289 Minn. 162, 183 N.W.2d 788 (1971);
Samuels v. Samuels, 174 Minn. 133, 218 N.W. 546 (1928);
Parson v. Argue, 344 N.W.2d 431 (Minn. Ct. App. 1984).
"THIS IS A FUCK SHOW"
OLMSTED COUNTY IS
OPERATING A CRIMINAL
Another restriction is the requirement that a “new trial” motion be actually authorized
in the proceeding from which the appeal is taken.
A motion for a “new trial” may be appropriate in some civil proceedings other than
traditional trials; on the other hand, such a motion may be inappropriate in other
In Schiltz v. City of Duluth, 449 N.W.2d 439 (Minn. 1990), on remand, 1990 WL 48530
(Minn. Ct. App. 1990) (unpublished opinion), the Minnesota Supreme Court emphasized
that there must be some statutory authority for proceedings like new trial motions,
such as a provision for further proceedings “in the same manner as in a civil action.”
In the absence of such a provision, a “new trial” motion, even if considered by the trial
court on the merits and denied, may not result in an appealable order.
Compare Schiltz and In re Jost, 449 N.W.2d 719 (Minn. 1990) (new trial motion properly
made in civil commitment proceeding under Minn. Stat. § 253B.23, subd. 7, and appeal
properly taken from denial of such motion) with Steeves v. Campbell, 508 N.W.2d 817
(Minn. Ct. App. 1993) (new trial motion in domestic abuse proceedings not authorized,
and order denying such motion is not appealable); Huso v. Huso, 465 N.W.2d 719
(Minn. Ct. App. 1991) (new trial not authorized in post-dissolution decree modification
proceedings, and order denying such motion not appealable; proper appeal is from the
order granting or denying requested relief);
Park & Recreation Board v. Carl Bolander & Sons Property, 436 N.W.2d 481
(Minn. Ct. App. 1989) (motion for a “new trial” not appropriate in condemnation proceedings,
and appeal may be taken only from the order determining public necessity or the final judgment);
and Tonkaway Ltd. Partnership v. McLain, 433 N.W.2d 443 (Minn. Ct. App. 1988) (order denying
a “new trial” in an unlawful detainer action not appealable).
WHERE ARE YOU? ARE YOU IN COURT?
ARE YOU SURE?
THIS IS ABOUT JURISDICTION
Procedure. A coming into court as a party or interested person, or as a lawyer
on behalf of a party or interested person; esp., a defendant's act of taking part
in a lawsuit, whether by formally participating in it or by an answer, demurrer,
or motion, or by taking post judgment steps in the lawsuit in either the trial
court or an ap-pellate court.
[Cases: Appearance 1–29; Federal Civil Procedure 561–574. C.J.S. Appearances §§ 2–59.]
— appear,vb. Black's Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004) , Page 304-05
AGENCY ISSUES, FACTS, MYTHS & LEGENDS
FEDERAL - STATE - COUNTY AGENCY
SCOPE & PURPOSE OF AGENCY; WHO IS? WHAT IS?
LIABILITY OF PRINCIPAL FOR AGENT'S CONTRACTS
"YOU" & THE NEW DEAL
PUBLIC v. PRIVATE
1. The regular and orderly progression of a lawsuit, including all acts and events
between the time of commencement and the entry of judgment.
2. Any procedural means for seeking redress from a tribunal or agency.
3. An act or step that is part of a larger action.
4. The business conducted by a court or other official body; a hearing.
5.Bankruptcy. A particular dispute or matter arising within a pending case — as
opposed to the case as a whole.
[Cases: Bankruptcy 2156. C.J.S. Bankruptcy § 26.]
“ ‘Proceeding’ is a word much used to express the business done in courts. A proceeding in
court is an act done by the authority or direction of the court, express or implied. It is more
comprehensive than the word ‘action,’ but it may include in its general sense all the steps taken or
measures adopted in the prosecution or defense of an action, including the pleadings and judgment.
As applied to actions, the term ‘proceeding’ may include —
(1) the institution of the action;
(2) the appearance of the defendant;
(3) all ancillary or provisional steps, such as arrest, attachment of property, garnishment,
injunction, writ of ne exeat;
(4) the pleadings;
(5) the taking of testimony before trial;
(6) all motions made in the action;
(7) the trial;
(8) the judgment;
(9) the execution;
(10) proceedings supplementary to execution, in code practice;
(11) the taking of the appeal or writ of error;
(12) the remittitur, or sending back of the record to the lower court from the appellate
or reviewing court;
(13) the enforcement of the judgment, or a new trial, as may be directed by the court of last resort.”
Edwin E. Bryant, The Law of Pleading Under the Codes of Civil Procedure 3–4 (2d ed. 1899).
Black's Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004) , Page 3808
IN THE MANNER PROVIDED BY LAW
MEANS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE
RULE CIVIL PROCEDURE 81.03 Rules Incorporated into Statutes
Where any statute heretofore or hereafter enacted, whether or not listed in Appendix A,
provides that any act in a civil proceeding shall be done in the manner provided by law,
such act shall be done in accordance with these rules.
645.19 CONSTRUCTION OF PROVISOS AND EXCEPTIONS.
Provisos shall be construed to limit rather than to extend the operation of the clauses to
which they refer. Exceptions expressed in a law shall be construed to exclude all others.
645.20 CONSTRUCTION OF SEVERABLE PROVISIONS.
Unless there is a provision in the law that the provisions shall not be severable, the
provisions of all laws shall be severable. If any provision of a law is found to be unconstitutional
and void, the remaining provisions of the law shall remain valid, unless the court finds the valid
provisions of the law are so essentially and inseparably connected with, and so dependent
upon, the void provisions that the court cannot presume the legislature would have enacted the
remaining valid provisions without the void one; or unless the court finds the remaining valid
provisions, standing alone, are incomplete and are incapable of being executed in accordance
with the legislative intent.
645.22 UNIFORM LAWS.
Laws uniform with those of other states shall be interpreted and construed to effect their
general purpose to make uniform the laws of those states which enact them.
The “new trial” rule does not generally apply to “special proceedings” (proceedings which are created
and governed by statute) unless there is some specific authorization for the motion in the statute.
Knutson v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 406 N.W.2d 560, 562 (Minn. Ct. App. 1987).
While this is generally true, there are exceptions. Pahlen v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 482 N.W.2d 493
(Minn. Ct. App. 1992), impliedly overruled Knutson to the extent that, after Knutson, appeals were allowed
to be taken from an order denying a motion for a new trial in special proceedings intended to proceed as
other civil cases.
Nonetheless, Pahlen did not go so far as to require that a motion for a new trial be brought in special
proceedings in order to preserve issues for review.
See Schiltz v. City of Duluth, 449 N.W.2d 439, 441 (Minn. 1990); In re Jost, 449 N.W.2d 719, 721 (Minn. 1990);
Pahlen, 482 N.W.2d at 495.
Even if a new trial motion is authorized, it may not be effective to raise issues on appeal, since it may not be
specifically appealable in a particular proceeding.
1. Of, relating to, or designating a species, kind, or individual thing.
2. (Of a statute, rule, etc.) designed for a particular purpose.
3. (Of powers, etc.) unusual; extraordinary.
A term of court scheduled outside the general term, usu. for conducting
extraordinary business. [Cases: Courts 64. C.J.S. Courts § 119.]
RULE 81 CIVIL PROCEDURE
SPECIAL; SPECIAL APPEARANCE
For example, in probate matters, while the Rules of Civil Procedure govern contested will proceedings,
Minn. Stat. § 525.71 (which governs appeals in probate matters) does not authorize an appeal from an order
denying a new trial.
See In re Estate of Opsahl, 440 N.W.2d 185, 186 (Minn. Ct. App. 1989) (“In probate matters, only those orders
enumerated in Minn. Stat. § 525.71 (1988) are appealable. . . . Minn. Stat. § 525.71 does not allow an appeal from
an order denying a motion for a new trial.”) (Citations omitted.)
The only way to obtain review of new trial motion issues is to make the motion and obtain a decision prior to an
appeal authorized under the statute.
The grounds for a new trial under Minnesota state law are listed
in Minn. R. Civ. P. 59.01. The grounds included (along with some
of the significant cases discussing those principles) are:
A new trial may be granted to all or any of the parties and on all
or part of the issues for any of the following causes:
RCP 59.01 (a) Irregularity in the proceedings of the court, referee, jury, or prevailing party, or any order or
abuse of discretion, whereby the moving party was deprived of a fair trial;
Irregularity in Proceedings — Rule 59.01(a).
See In re Begley’s Estate, 178 Minn. 141, 226 N.W. 404 (1929) (an irregularity is a failure
to adhere to a prescribed rule or method of procedure that does not amount to an error
in a ruling in a matter of law or misconduct);
Sabraski v. Northern States Power Co., 304 N.W.2d 635 (Minn. 1981) (irregularity);
Gersdorf v. R. D. Werner Co., 316 N.W.2d 517 (Minn. 1982) (judge’s reinstruction of jury
without informing litigants’ counsel and without the presence of a court reporter
RCP 59.01 (b) Misconduct of the jury or prevailing party;
Misconduct — Rule 59.01(b).
See Schwartz v. Minneapolis Suburban Bus Co., 258 Minn. 325, 104 N.W.2d 301 (1960)
(established procedure to determine whether jury misconduct has occurred);
Zimmerman v. Witte Transp. Co., 259 N.W.2d 260 (Minn. 1977) (court summoned the
jurors and allowed examination regarding jury misconduct);
Bianchi v. Nordby, 409 N.W.2d 835, 838 (Minn. 1987)
(Schwartz hearing is appropriate procedure to determine whether a clerical error has
occurred); Johnson v. Moberg, 334 N.W.2d 411 (Minn. 1983) (misconduct of attorney in
failing to disclose settlement).
See also Minn. R. Evid. 606(b) (regarding inquiry into validity of verdict or indictment).
RCP 59.01 (c) Accident or surprise which could not have been prevented by ordinary prudence;
Accident or Surprise — Rule 59.01(c).
See Gunderson v. Olson, 399 N.W.2d 166 (Minn. Ct. App. 1987) (to preserve motion, must
object claiming surprise at the time the evidence is offered and request continuance);
Dorn v. Home Farmers Mut. Ins. Ass’n, 300 Minn. 414, 220 N.W.2d 503 (1974)
(moving party must establish prejudice);
Kozak v. Weis, 348 N.W.2d 798 (Minn. Ct. App. 1984) (knowledge of what testimony will or
will not be precludes claim of surprise).
RCP 59.01 (d) Material evidence newly discovered, which with reasonable diligence could not have been
found and produced at the trial;
Newly Disclosed Evidence — Rule 59.01(d).
See Gruenhagen v. Larson, 310 Minn. 454, 246 N.W.2d 565 (1976) (evidence must be more
than merely cumulative, contradictory, or impeaching); Vikse v. Flaby, 316 N.W.2d 276 (Minn. 1982)
(new trial not allowed where evidence not discovered because of a lack of due diligence);
State ex rel. Pula v. Beehler, 364 N.W.2d 860 (Minn. Ct. App. 1985) (moving party has burden of
showing that evidence could not have been found and produced at trial and that evidence would
have a material effect on outcome of case).
RCP 59.01 (e) Excessive or insufficient damages, appearing to have been given under the influence of
passion or prejudice;
Excessive/Insufficient Damages — Rule 59.01(e).
See Busch v. Busch Constr., Inc., 262 N.W.2d 377 (Minn. 1977) (appellate court reluctant
to substitute its judgment on remittitur where reasons exist which independently support
trial court’s exercise of discretion); Seim v. Garavalia, 306 N.W.2d 806 (Minn. 1981)
(verdict must be rendered under the influence of passion and prejudice; excessive or
insufficient damages alone insufficient).
RCP 59.01 (f) Errors of law occurring at the trial, and objected to at the time or, if no objection need have
been made pursuant to Rules 46 and 51, plainly assigned in the notice of motion;
Errors of Law — Rule 59.01(f).
See Gilbert v. Brindle, 306 Minn. 569, 237 N.W.2d 83 (1975) (new trial required where
evidentiary support is lacking as to any one of theories submitted to jury);
Bilotta v. Kelley Co., 346 N.W.2d 616 (Minn. 1984) (new trial granted because of
erroneous instruction on design-defect claim); Becker v. Alloy Hardfacing & Eng’g Co.,
401 N.W.2d 655 (Minn. 1987) (new trial for failure to instruct jury on “clear and convincing”
standard for proving punitive damages).
Rule 51. Instructions to the Jury;
Objections; Preserving a Claim of Error
RULE 46 OBJECTIONS; EXCEPTIONS
RCP 59.01 (g) The verdict, decision, or report is not justified by the evidence, or is contrary to law; but,
unless it be so expressly stated in the order granting a new trial, it shall not be presumed, on appeal,
to have been made on the ground that the verdict, decision, or report was not justified by the evidence.
On a motion for a new trial in an action tried without a jury, the court may open the judgment if one
has been entered, take additional testimony, amend findings of fact and conclusions of law or make
new findings and conclusions, and direct entry of a new judgment.
Verdict Contrary to Evidence or Law — Rule 59.01(g).
See Koenig v. Ludowese, 308 Minn. 380, 243 N.W.2d 29 (1976) (trial judge must exercise caution
in setting aside a jury verdict on the grounds of insufficient evidence); M.L. v. Magnuson, 531 N.W.2d 849
(Minn. Ct. App. 1995) (motion not granted unless verdict so contrary to preponderance of evidence as to
imply that jury acted without considering all evidence or from improper motive).
Rule 59.03 requires that written notice of motion for new trial be served within 30 days
after a general verdict or service of notice by a party of filing of decision or order.
The 30-day time limit for filing the motion is an absolute deadline.
Failure to meet the 30-day time limit deprives the trial court of jurisdiction to hear and
decide the motion. Rieman v. Joubert, 376 N.W.2d 681 (Minn. 1985).
There is no provision in the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure for extending the 30-day
limit. A timely and proper motion for new trial tolls the 60-day deadline for filing a notice
of appeal from judgment. Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 104.01, subd. 2.
See § VII, infra, discussing the tolling of the time to appeal.
The rule also requires the motion to be heard within 60 days, and failure to either obtain
the hearing within that period, or secure an extension for good cause shown, renders the
United States Leasing Corp. v. Biba Information Processing Services, Inc., 489 N.W.2d 231
(Minn. 1992). In United States Leasing, the court made it clear that the extension of time
must be approved by the trial court, and must be obtained within the 60-day window.
Cf. Woodrow v. Tobler, 269 N.W.2d 910 (Minn. 1978).
In addition, prudent counsel will obtain a written confirmation of any extension for good
cause issued by the court within the 60-day limitation period. United States Leasing Corp.,
489 N.W.2d at 232.
Previously, some conflicting case law discussed whether an untimely hearing on new trial
motions would divest a district court of jurisdiction to hear the motion. The Minnesota
Supreme Court recently held that failure to obtain a timely hearing for a motion for new
trial is not a jurisdictional defect. In Rubey v. Vannett, 2006 WL 1171857 (Minn. 2006),
the Minnesota Supreme Court granted review after the court of appeals dismissed as
untimely an ex-husband’s appeal from an order denying a motion for new trial and
amended findings relating to child custody.
Although he filed timely motion papers, an ex-husband’s post-trial motion was heard
after the 60-day period without an order of the court granting an extension for good
cause. Id. at *2.
The ex-husband contended that when he attempted to schedule the motion within the
60-day period, he was informed by the clerk’s office that the only date available was after
the 60-day period. Id.
There was conflicting evidence regarding whether counsel had asked for an order.
Id. at *2-3. The district court dismissed the motion because it lacked jurisdiction, and,
alternatively, because the hearing was untimely. Id. at *3. The court of appeals held the
appeal from the dismissal and the judgment was untimely. Id.
The supreme court reversed and remanded, holding that the Rule 59.03 requirement that
a motion for a new trial be heard within 60 days after the notice of filing of the decision or
order is “a procedural tool” and not a jurisdictional requirement. Id. at *4. The ex-husband’s
failure to obtain a hearing within the 60-day period did not divest the district court of
jurisdiction. Id. With regard to the district court’s alternative decision to dismiss the
ex-husband’s motion because the hearing was untimely, however, the supreme court
affirmed, holding that the district court’s findings were not clearly erroneous and it did not
abuse its discretion in dismissing the motion. Id. at *5-6. The court concluded that the district
court was not clearly erroneous in finding that the ex-husband did not reasonably rely on any
alleged statements by the clerk. Id. at *6. The supreme court, however, reversed the court of
appeals’ decision to dismiss the appeal because the ex-husband’s timely motion had tolled the
time to appeal. See § VII, infra, discussing the tolling of the time to appeal.
Rule 59.04 requires affidavits in support of a motion for new trial to be served with the motion
for new trial, and provides for responsive and reply affidavits. The rule does not address the date
by which any supporting memoranda must be served.
Rule 115.01(c) of the General Rules of Practice provides that the timing provisions of sections 115.03
(non-dispositive motions) and 115.04 (dispositive motions) do not apply to post-trial motions.
Consequently, Rule 6.04 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires at least 5 days notice of a motion,
governs the minimum notice time for the motions.
59.04 Time for Serving Affidavits
When a motion for a new trial is based upon affidavits, they shall be served with the notice of motion.
The opposing party shall have ten days after such service in which to serve opposing affidavits, which
period may be extended by the court pursuant to Rule 59.03.
The court may permit reply affidavits.
MN RCP Rule 59. New Trials
In practice, it is often difficult to coordinate the schedules of the lawyers and the court for new trial motions,
particularly in light of the limited time frame of Rule 59. Therefore, it is wise to notice the motion promptly,
“for a date and time to be determined by order of the court.” The party moving for new trial should also
submit a request to the court to set a date and briefing schedule (or order the general rules provisions to be
followed) as well as specifically extend the time for hearing for “good cause,” for example, the unavailability
of the court and parties at a time and date within the 60 days.
A new trial motion must specifically identify the grounds upon which it is made. It is not enough to merely
parrot the provisions of the rule without argument or other authority.
See Waldner v. Peterson, 447 N.W.2d 217, 219 (Minn. Ct. App. 1989) (motion for new trial that only alleged
that “errors of fact and law” had occurred and that the “decision was not justified by the evidence and was
contrary to law” failed to identify any specific grounds which would justify a new trial and thus preserved no
issues for appeal).
EVERY MOTION MUST
PARTS OF A COMPLAINT
SKULL & BONES; SIMPLICITY
B. MOTION FOR AMENDED FINDINGS
A losing party in a court trial has three alternatives after a court has issued findings,
conclusions, and a judgment order.
The losing party may:
(1) move to amend,
(2) move for a new trial, or
The common practice is to bring a motion for amended findings and conclusions combined
with a motion for a new trial before appealing.
Just because they are commonly brought together, however, does not mean that new trial
motions and motions for amended findings are similar in either their purpose or effect.
LAWSUIT; it's NOT C.A.T. FRED
IS THIS A TRIAL?
PUBLIC v. PRIVATE
WHOIS? YOUR ADVERSARY
Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.02 permits a party to request a court to clarify, correct, or amend findings,
conclusions, and orders for judgment and allows the court to make such amendments.
Rule 52.02 allows the question of sufficiency of the evidence to support a trial court’s findings
to be raised on appeal regardless of whether a motion has been made in the district court
objecting to such findings, or whether that party has made a motion to amend the findings.
Review on appeal is limited, however, to the sufficiency of the evidence to support the findings.
Findings of fact made by the trial court will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous.
In re Appeal from Probate Court, 302 Minn. 512, 225 N.W.2d 539 (1975).
This is true regardless of whether the evidence presented to the trial court is oral testimony
or written documents.
Upon motion of a party served and heard not later than the time allowed for a motion
for new trial pursuant to Rule 59.03, the court may amend its findings or make additional
findings, and may amend the judgment accordingly if judgment has been entered.
The motion may be made with a motion for a new trial and may be made on the files,
exhibits, and minutes of the court.
When findings of fact are made in actions tried by the court without a jury, the question
of the sufficiency of the evidence to support the findings may thereafter be raised whether
or not the party raising the question has made in the district court an objection to such
findings or has made a motion to amend them or a motion for judgment.
(Amended effective March 1, 2001.)
MOTION TO AMEND FINDINGS OF FACT
NOTICE OF ERROR; PRESERVE ERROR
SO IF YOU CAN MAKE DAMN SURE THAT YOUR
ADVERSARY NEVER EVER GETS A STITCH ONTO
THE RECORD THEN YOU CAN MAINTAIN TOTAL
CONTROL; MAKING CERTAIN THE MATTER WILL
NEVER GO UP FOR AN APPEAL
CHALLENGE TO THE SUFFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE
59.03 Time for Motion
A notice of motion for a new trial shall be served within 30 days after a general verdict or service
of notice by a party of the filing of the decision or order; and the motion shall be heard within 60
days after such general verdict or notice of filing, unless the time for hearing be extended by the
court within the 60-day period for good cause shown.
Motions for amended findings are not necessary to preserve issues; however, if the court fails to
make a finding on a particular issue of fact, a motion for amended findings is necessary to preserve
that issue for appeal.
Antonson v. Ekvall, 289 Minn. 536, 186 N.W.2d 187 (1971).
Likewise, a defect concerning the trial court’s findings that is not brought to the attention of the
trial court cannot be raised for the first time on appeal.
Berquam v. Berkner, 374 N.W.2d 802 (Minn. Ct. App. 1985).
Rule 52. Findings by the Court
The denial of a motion for amended findings of fact or conclusions of law is not by itself
an appealable order.
Lehman v. Hansord Pontiac Co., 246 Minn. 1, 6, 74 N.W.2d 305, 309 (1955).
This is true even if the order denying the motion also denies a motion for a new trial.
Only the portion of the order denying the new trial request is appealable.
Schaedler v. New York Life Ins. Co., 201 Minn. 327, 276 N.W. 235 (1937).
The denial of the motion for amended findings may be reviewed on appeal from the
judgment subsequently entered.
Rathbun v. W. T. Grant Co., 300 Minn. 223, 219 N.W.2d 641 (1974).
A motion to amend findings of fact is appropriate to have the trial court correct errors
that it has made. It is not intended to permit a wholesale re-trial of the case.
A motion to amend permits the trial court to review all the evidence, not just those
findings claimed by the losing party to be inaccurate.
McCauley v. Michael, 256 N.W.2d 491 (Minn. 1977).
The trial court may not, however, accept new evidence in considering a motion for
amended findings, unless accompanied by motion for new trial.
Chin v. Zoet, 418 N.W.2d 191 (Minn. Ct. App. 1988).
Rule 52 applies only to a bench trial and is often brought with a Rule 59 new trial motion.
A motion must be made within 30 days after service of notice by a party of the filing of
the decision or order and heard within 60 days.
Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.02; see discussion above with respect to new trials.
The trial court no longer loses jurisdiction to amend the findings where an appeal is filed
before the trial court renders a decision on the motion for amended findings.
See, e.g., Amatuzio v. Amatuzio, 431 N.W.2d 588, 589 (Minn. Ct. App. 1988)
(holding jurisdiction lost under prior rules).
A proper and timely motion to amend or make findings of fact under Rule 52.02 tolls the
60-day deadline for time to appeal whether or not granting the motion would alter the
judgment. Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 104.01, subd. 2.
See § VII, infra, discussing the tolling of the time to appeal.
C. MOTION FOR Judgment As A Matter Of Law (“JAML”)
There is no general requirement in state court for Rule 50 motions to be made at trial in
order to preserve issues for appeal.
Parties are, however, required to object to improper evidence, questioning or procedures,
and, as noted above, to preserve issues relating to instructions and verdict forms.
Recently, Minnesota revised the rules of civil procedure relating to Rule 50 and renamed
motions for directed verdict and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, in accordance
with the federal practice, as “judgment as a matter of law.”
These materials will refer to prior case law on motions for directed verdict and judgment
NOV since the Minnesota Supreme Court has indicated that the recent change was in
nomenclature only and not to alter Minnesota practice.
See Advisory Committee Comment – 2006 Amendment (stating amendment was made to
remove “archaic language” and the “change is not intended to change substantive practice
relating to these motions”).
MN RCP Rule 50. Judgment as a Matter of Law in Jury Trials;
Alternative Motion for New Trial; Conditional Rulings
In prior cases, the appellate courts have held that an appeal from a judgment in a jury
case does not allow consideration of the issue of sufficiency of the evidence to create
a jury question or to support the judgment unless a proper motion for judgment as a
matter of law (“JAML”) or for a new trial has been made.
See In re Ydstie’s Estate, 195 Minn. 501, 263 N.W. 447 (1935).
This rule appears to be applicable only when review is sought of the sufficiency of
the evidence to support a judgment on a particular legal theory presented at trial.
Where a specific legal theory and its application to the evidence presented is put before
the trial court by a motion for JAML, the issue of the sufficiency of the evidence is
reviewable on appeal in that context.
In other words, the appellate court may consider whether the evidence supports the law
pleaded and advanced to the trial court.
See Phelan v. Carey, 222 Minn. 1, 23 N.W.2d 10 (1946);
Ciresi v. Globe & Rutgers Fire Ins. Co., 187 Minn. 145, 244 N.W. 688 (1932).
When no motion is made, however, an appeal from the judgment in a jury case results in a review
that is limited to whether the evidence sustains the verdict under any applicable rule of law.
Wright v. M. B. Hagen Realty Co., 269 N.W.2d 62 (Minn. 1978);
Kilty v. Mutual of Omaha Ins. Co., 287 Minn. 403, 178 N.W.2d 734 (1970);
Johnsrud v. Tri-State Sales, Inc., 353 N.W.2d 255 (Minn. Ct. App. 1984).
Where a party has presented evidence to support one of her theories, but the trial court failed
to give a jury instruction, a motion for JAML that addresses the trial court’s failure to give jury
instructions preserves the instruction issue for appeal. "
Stelter v. Chiquita Processed Foods, L.L.C., 658 N.W.2d 242, 246 (Minn. Ct. App. 2003).
After trial, motions for JAML or for a new trial are commonly brought as alternative or “blended” motions.
Each motion presents a different question for the trial court.
A motion for JAML is granted only if the evidence is so overwhelming that reasonable minds could not differ
as to the conclusion to be drawn, or if the party would be entitled to a directed verdict.
Bisher v. Homart Dev. Co., 328 N.W.2d 731 (Minn. 1983).
A motion for JAML raises a purely legal question for the trial court – have the elements of the cause of action
A motion for a new trial, on the other hand, may be sought on any of the grounds set forth in Minn. R. Civ. P. 59.
When sufficiency of the evidence is the ground for seeking a new trial, however, relief will be granted only
where the verdict is so contrary to the preponderance of the evidence as to imply that the jury failed to consider
all of the evidence, or acted under the influence of mistake or bias.
La Valle v. Aqualand Pool Co., 257 N.W.2d 324 (Minn. 1977).
Because the standards for granting the two motions are different, it is possible under certain circumstances, for
the court to rule one way on the motion for JAML, and differently on the motion for a new trial.
See Lamb v. Jordan, 333 N.W.2d 852 (Minn. 1983).
Motions for JAML may be brought either during trial, under Rule 50.01, or after trial,
under Rule 50.02. Rule 50.01 states that the standard for obtaining JAML during trial is
that “a party has been fully heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary
basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue” because the party’s claim or
defense “cannot under the controlling law be maintained or defeated without a favorable
finding on that issue.”
Minn. R. Civ. P. 50.01(a). These motions may be made at any time before the case is
submitted to the jury.
Minn. R. Civ. P. 50.01(b). In direct contrast to federal practice, it is not necessary to bring a
motion for JAML during trial in order to bring a motion for JAML after trial.
Minn. R. Civ. P. 50.02. See Advisory Committee Comment – 2006 Amendment (noting
difference between federal and Minnesota practice on this point).
50.01 Judgment as a Matter of Law During Trial
If during a trial by jury a party has been fully heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a
reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue, the court may decide the issue against that party and may grant a
motion for judgment as a matter of law against that party with respect to a claim or defense that cannot under the
controlling law be maintained or defeated without a favorable finding on that issue.
THAT WOULD BE
50.01(b) Timing and Content.
Motions for judgment as a matter of law during trial may be made at any time before submission of the case to
Such a motion shall specify the judgment sought and the law and the facts on which the moving party is
entitled to the judgment.
(Amended effective January 1, 2006; amended January 9, 2006.)
RULE 56 MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Rule 56 SUMMARY JUDGMENT.pdf
MN RCP 56 Summary Judgment.pdf
Rule 41. Dismissal of Actions
50.02 Making or Renewing Motion for Judgment After Trial;
Alternative Motion for New Trial
50.02 If, for any reason, the court does not grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law made during trial, the court is considered to have
submitted the action to the jury subject to the court's later deciding the legal questions raised by the motion.
Whether or not the party has moved for judgment as a matter of law before submission of the case to the jury, a party may make or
renew a request for judgment as a matter of law by serving a motion within the time specified in Rule 59 for the service of a motion
for a new trial - and may alternatively request a new trial or join a motion for a new trial under Rule 59. In ruling on such a motion, the
(Amended effective January 1, 2006; amended effective January 2, 2006.)
50.02(a) if a verdict was returned:
(1) allow the judgment to stand,
(2) order a new trial, or
(3) direct entry of judgment as a matter of law; or
50.02(b) if no verdict was returned:
(1) order a new trial, or
(2) direct entry of judgment as a matter of law.
LEGAL QUESTIONS RAISED BY THE MOTION
"JUDGE" IS "JURY"
Post-trial motions for JAML or a new trial must be served within 30 days after a general verdict or service
by a party of notice of filing of decision or order. Rules 50.02 & 59.03. Failure to serve and file the motions
in a timely fashion is jurisdictional, and the district court cannot consider untimely motions.
Differt v. Rendahl, 306 N.W.2d 813 (Minn. 1981); Bowman v. Pamida, Inc., 261 N.W.2d 594 (Minn. 1977).
A timely and proper post-trial motion for JAML tolls the 60-day deadline for the time to appeal.
Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 104.01, subd. 2. See § VII, infra, discussing the tolling of the time to appeal.
Minn. R. Civ. P. 50.03 protects the rights of both parties to seek a new trial following a motion for JAML.
If JAML is granted, the party opposing the Rule 50 motion may move for a new trial by serving a Rule 59
new trial motion within thirty days after notice of the trial court’s order granting judgment as a matter
In the appellate context, Rule 50.03 specifically provides that the party who prevailed on the motion for
JAML may, as respondent in an appeal, assert grounds supporting a new trial in the event the appellate
court concludes that the trial court erred in denying the motion for JAML.
See, e.g., Conover v. Northern States Power Co., 313 N.W.2d 397 (Minn. 1981). Rule 50.04 further provides
that if the appellate court reverses the judgment, it may either determine that the respondent is entitled to
a new trial or direct the trial court to determine whether a new trial should be granted.
The effect of these rules is that in an appeal from a judgment, the appellate court may determine that the
respondent is entitled to a new trial even though no new trial motion was made in the trial court.
50.03 Granting Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law;
Conditional Rulings; New Trial Motion
50.03(a) Conditional Rulings.
If the motion for judgment as a matter of law is granted, the court shall also rule on the motion for a new trial, if any, by determining whether
it should be granted if the judgment is thereafter vacated or reversed, and shall specify the grounds for granting or denying the motion for
the new trial.
If the motion for a new trial is thus conditionally granted, the order thereon does not affect the finality of the judgment. In case the motion for
a new trial has been conditionally granted and the judgment is reversed on appeal, the new trial shall proceed unless the appellate court has
In case the motion for a new trial has been conditionally denied, the respondent on appeal may assert error in that denial; and if the judgment
is reversed on appeal, subsequent proceedings shall be in accordance with the order of the appellate court.
Any motion for a new trial under Rule 59 by a party against whom judgment as a matter of law is rendered shall be served and heard within
the times specified in Rule 59 for the service and hearing of a motion for a new trial.
(Added effective January 1, 2006; amended effective January 2, 2006.)
59.03 Time for Motion
A notice of motion for a new trial shall be served within 30 days after a general verdict or service of notice by a party of the
filing of the decision or order; and the motion shall be heard within 60 days after such general verdict or notice of filing,
unless the time for hearing be extended by the court within the 60-day period for good cause shown.
RULE 59 NEW TRIALS
PROTECTING THE RIGHT TO APPEAL:
Post-Trial Motions In Minnesota
Eric J. Magnuson
Diane B. Bratvold Jonathan P. Schmidt
Briggs and Morgan, P.A.
2200 IDS Center
80 South 8th Street
Affirmative Defenses (Minn. R. Civ. P. 8.03)
Pleading affirmative defenses in Minnesota
Copyright 2012 The Kuhn Law Firm, PLLC. 5200 Willson Road #150 Edina, MN 55424
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