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Appeals Court May Direct Verdict as Matter of Law
Description Supreme Court held that a court of appeals may direct a judgment as a matter of law for the losing party when it determines that evidence was improperly admitted at trial and that the remaining evidence, properly admitted, is insufficient to present a case.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Evidence; Expert Testimony; Directed Verdict on Appeal
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Bonnie Weisgram died from smoke during a fire in her house. Her son, Chad Weisgram, sued Marley, the maker of a heater, claiming it was defective and the cause of the fire. At trial, Weisgram offered expert witness to prove that the heater was defective. Marley objected that the testimony was unreliable and therefore inadmissible, but the judge overruled the objections; the jury found for Weisgram. The appeals court held that the testimony of Weisgram's witness was not scientifically sound, and, therefore incompetent. The appeals court directed a judgment for Marley, holding that there were no grounds for a new trial. Weisgram appealed.
Decision Affirmed. An appellate court may direct the entry of judgment as a matter of law when it determines that the evidence was erroneously admitted at trial and that the remaining evidence, properly admitted, is insufficient to continue a submissible case. The court rejected the argument that the plaintiffs would have provided a stronger case had they known that their key expert testimony would be dismissed. It is not sensible to argue that a part will present less than their best evidence at trial in the expectation of another trial.
Citation Weisgram v. Marley Co., 120 S.Ct. 1011 (2000)

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