Unitherm Food Systems, Inc. v. Swift-Eckrich, Inc.
546 U.S. 394 (2006)

  • Unitherm was suing Swift over an antitrust issue. As the plaintiffs, Unitherm presented their case first. Ehen Unitherm rested, Swift moved for a judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) (aka Rule 50).
    • Swift argued that Unitherm had failed to put on sufficient evidence to support a finding of antitrust liability.
    • The Trial judge rejected the motion, the trial proceeded, and Swift put on their defense.
  • At the close of all evidence, Swift failed to make a renewed motion for JMOL (Rule 50(b)) or a motion for new trial (Rule 59) on the basis of insufficient evidence.
  • The Trial Court found for Unitherm. Swift appealed.
    • Swift argued in the Appellate Court that Unitherm had failed to show sufficient evidence.
  • The US Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The US Supreme Court found that Swift’s failure to make a post-trial motion precluded Swift from raising the question of evidentiary sufficiency on appeal, either to support JMOL or a new trial.
    • The Court noted that the Trial judge is in the best position to determine sufficiency of the evidence, and thus that a party may not bypass presenting the question to the Trial Court and raising it directly on appeal.
  • Basically, if you feel that the opposing side has not presented enough evidence to win the case, you must make both a Rule 50 JMOL motion when they rest their case and make a Rule 50(b) or Rule 59 motion at the close of all evidence.
    • If you don’t take both these actions, you can’t argue them on appeal. The basis of an appeal is that the Trial Court made a mistake, but if you don’t make both of those motions, then the Trial Court never rules on the issue, so it can’t be said that they’ve made a mistake.