Directed Verdict Definition and Legal Meaning
On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Directed Verdict, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.
What is Directed Verdict?
n. A jury’s verdict which is directed by a trial judge resulting in delivering a particular verdict because one of the parties failed to present credible testimony on a key element of the defense or claim. While a criminal case judge may direct a verdict of acquittal, the judge cannot direct a verdict of guilty. This cannot occur because it would deprive the accused of their constitutional right to a jury trial.
History and Definition of Directed Verdict
A directed verdict is a decision handed down by a judge in a civil or criminal jury trial that determines the outcome of a case. Specifically, it is delivered because one of the parties failed to present credible testimony on a crucial element of their defense or claim. In a criminal case, a judge may direct a verdict of acquittal, but not of guilt, as doing so would infringe on the defendant's constitutional right to a jury trial.
The earliest references to directed verdicts date back to English common law in the 12th century, where they were known as "nonsuits." The concept was later adopted by the American legal system, particularly in common-law countries like the United States, where it is used to help judges manage civil and criminal cases more effectively by preventing frivolous claims and weak defenses from tying up court resources.
Examples of Directed Verdict
- In a personal injury lawsuit, the defense may request a directed verdict if the plaintiff fails to present sufficient evidence to support their claim.
- In a criminal trial, the prosecutor may request a directed verdict of acquittal if they believe the defense has not met their burden of proof.
- In a breach of contract case, the judge may direct a verdict for the plaintiff if they find that the defendant failed to fulfill their contractual obligations.
Legal Terms Similar to Directed Verdict
- Summary judgment: A judge's decision to resolve a case before it goes to trial because one of the parties has failed to present a genuine issue of material fact.
- Judgment notwithstanding the verdict: A judge's decision to overturn a jury verdict because they believe it was rendered in error.
- Directed verdict vs. jury nullification: While a directed verdict occurs when the judge intervenes to deliver a verdict, jury nullification occurs when a jury decides to ignore the law and deliver a verdict based on their own sense of justice.