Judgment on Partial Findings Under a Rule 52(c) Motion
Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 52(c) provides as follows: (c) JUDGMENT ON PARTIAL FINDINGS. If during a trial without a jury a party has been fully heard with respect to an issue and the court finds against the party on that issue, the court may enter judgment as a matter of law against that party on any claim, counterclaim, cross-claim or third-party claim that cannot under the controlling law be maintained or defeated without a favorable finding on that issue, or the court may decline to render any judgment until the close of all the evidence. Such a judgment shall be supported by findings of fact and conclusions of law as required by subdivision (a) of this rule.
Rule 52(c) parallels Rule 50(a) but applies to non-jury trials. If the court finds that oral argument will not be of material assistance in adjudicating the case, it may grant a motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(c) to order the matter submitted on the briefs. Kearney v. Standard Ins. Co., 175 F.3d 104 (9th Cir.1998).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(c) allows the district court to weigh the evidence to determine whether a plaintiff has proven his case. Pinkston v. Madry, 440 F.3d 879, 888 (7th Cir. 2006); 9 Moore's Federal Practice § 52.50 (3d ed. 2002).
Rule 52(c) governs judgment on partial findings by the court in a non-jury trial, and a Rule 52(c) motion can only be made during a bench trial. Ritchie v. United States, 451 F.3d 1019, 1023 (9th Cir. 2006).
Under Rule 52 (c), a judgment may be taken against either a plaintiff or defendant with respect to issues or defenses and operates as a decision on the merits in favor of the moving party. A judgment under Rule 52 (c) is properly referred to as a Judgment on Partial Findings.
When entering a Judgment on Partial Findings, the court is fully engaged in fact finding and “applies the same standard of proof and weighs the evidence as it would at the conclusion of the trial.” EBC Inc. v. Clark Bldg. Sys., Inc. 618 F.3d 253, 272 (3rd Cir. 2010).
The court does not view the evidence through a particular lens or draw inferences favorable to either party, as it would for summary judgment under Rule 56(a). Id. [See also: Charles A. Wright and Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure: Civil § 2573.1 (3rd ed.)] The court may make findings in accordance with its own view of the evidence.
The court may enter a judgment under Rule 52(c) at any time that it can make a dispositive finding, provided that a party against whom judgment is to be rendered has been “fully heard.” EBC Inc., 618 F. 3d at 272. While this motion is usually made at the close of the opposing party's case, the court may enter judgment earlier than that (even sua sponte) or take it under advisement and proceed with the trial.
Judgment on partial findings “streamlines bench trials by authorizing the judge, having heard all the evidence the plaintiff has to offer, to make findings of fact adverse to the plaintiff, including determinations of credibility, without waiting for the defense to put on its case.” Wsol v.Fiduciary Mgmt. Assocs., Inc., 266 F.3d 654, 656 (7th Cir. 2001). Because the district court “is acting in the capacity of a finder of fact” on a Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(c) motion, Pinkston v. Madry,440 F.3d 879, 890 (7th Cir. 2006), the plaintiff is not entitled to any favorable inferences nor is the court to view the evidence in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Ortloff v. U.S., 335 F.3d 652, 660 (7th Cir. 2003). See also Neopost Industrie B.V. v. PFE Int'l, Inc., 403 F. Supp.2d 669, 675 (N.D. Ill. 2005) (explaining that under Rule 52(c), “the court is within its prerogative to weigh the evidence, resolve any conflicts in it, and decide for itself where the preponderance lies” (citations omitted)).
On appeal, the Court's legal conclusions are reviewable de novo, and its factual findings for clear error. Fillmore v. Page, 358 F.3d 496, 503 (7th Cir.2004). The “clearly erroneous standard” applies to appellate review of a trial court's findings of fact under Rule 52 (c). A denial of summary judgment Under Rule 56(a) is reviewed de novo. Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778 (4th Cir. 1993).
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