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Conway v. O'Brien - 111 F.2d 611 (2d Cir. 1940)

Rule:

28 U.S.C.S. Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b), provides that when a motion for a verdict is denied at the close of the evidence, the judge is to be deemed to have submitted the action to the jury subject to a later determination, which is the equivalent of a reservation. It is not necessary that he should deny the motion once again; his failure to vacate his first order is enough. Hence it is proper to dismiss the complaint on appeal.

Facts:

Defendant O’Brien was driving a motor car, with plaintiff as a passenger, when it collided with another car driven by one Wilson. Pursuant to the “Guest-Occupant” law of Vermont (Public Laws of Vermont § 5113), plaintiff filed a complaint against O’Brien for the injuries she obtained during the accident, arguing that O’Brien was grossly or willfully negligent in operating the motor vehicle. O’Brien moved for a verdict at the close of the evidence, and the district court denied it without reserving decision. O’Brien was found to be liable for the collision.

Issue:

Was O’Brien grossly or willfully negligent in operating the motor vehicle, thereby, warranting judgment in favor of plaintiff under the “Guest Occupant” law of Vermont?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court reversed the judgment and dismissed plaintiff's complaint. The Court found that plaintiff's right of action for injuries depended upon the Guest-Occupant law of Vermont, Vt. Pub. Laws § 5113, by which defendant was not liable for plaintiff's injures unless he received pay for carrying plaintiff, or unless her injuries were caused by the gross or wilful negligence of defendant. The Court held that defendant's negligence was not enough to support the verdict. Under 28 U.S.C.S. Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b), when a motion for a verdict was denied at the close of the evidence, the district court judge was to be deemed to have submitted the action to the jury subject to a later determination - this was the equivalent of a reservation. According to the Court, it was not necessary that he should deny the motion again; his failure to vacate his first order was enough, and it was proper to dismiss the complaint on appeal.

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