A matter of law is a legal determination to be made by the judge; not involving determining facts.
The party with the burden of proof can draw all reasonable inferences. However, if evidence points equally to two conclusions, the inference can not be drawn and the party with the burden of proof loses. If undisputed evidence of essential fact points equally to the defendant being liable and being not liable, then the plaintiff loses. Reid.
A jury cannot split damage awards. If the harm is a million dollars, the jury must award either $1 million or nothing, not some partial amount. (Some states reduce damages for contributory negligence, but not for the jury's uncertainty.)
A bench trial is when the court finds facts instead of a jury. It is detailed in Rule 52.
Fact findings by a judge will not be set aside on appeal "unless clearly erroneous, and the reviewing court must give due regard to the trial court's opportunity to judge the witnesses' credibility." Rule 52(a)(6).
Law is reviewed de novo by the appellate court.
Findings of fact are given deference by the appellate court and will only be overturned if the reviewing court is left with "the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed."
A court can modify an order within 28 days. Rule 52(b).
In considering a motion for judgment as a matter of law, the judge must view all evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. The judge cannot weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations between witnesses.
It is permissible as long as the court offers the plaintiff the choice between the reduction and a new trial.
In essence, the court is informing the plaintiff that the damages award is "against the great weight of the evidence" and that he will order a new trial unless the plaintiff agrees to an amount believed to be supported by the evidence.
An exception is punitive damages, which a judge can reduce without asking the plaintiff.
Miscellaneous Jury Rules
One must request a jury trial within 14 days after the last pleading or the right will be waived and the matter will have a bench trial. Rule 38.
If a jury trial is demanded under Rule 38, it must be granted unless the parties stipulate otherwise or the judge finds that there is no right to a jury trial on the issues. If a jury trial is not requested, it will be a bench trial unless the judge orders a jury trial anyway. Rule 39.
A jury must be 6–12 people unless fewer are stipulated too. Rule 48(b).
A jury must reach a unanimous decision unless the parties agree otherwise. Rule 48(b).
A judge may poll the jury after its verdict to ensure that the verdict was unanimous or met the parties' agreed standard. Rule 48(c).
A court may submit forms requiring a jury to return a general verdict—only containing the verdict; a special verdict—only containing written findings of fact; or a general verdict with written answers. If written answers are given, they dictate the verdict, not the given verdict. Rule 49.