Rules of Civil Procedure

Rules of Civil Procedure Civil Procedure Rule 51: Argument: Instructions to jury

Effective Date: 07/01/1974


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(a) Time for argument

Counsel for each party shall be allowed thirty minutes for argument; but before the argument commences, the court, on motion or sua sponte, may reasonably reduce or extend the time. When two or more attorneys are to be heard on behalf of the same party, they may divide their time as they elect.

(b) Instructions to jury: Objection

At the close of the evidence or at such earlier time during the trial as the court reasonably directs, any party may file written requests that the court instruct the jury on the law as set forth in the requests. The court shall inform counsel of its proposed action upon the requests prior to their arguments to the jury, but the court shall instruct the jury after the arguments are completed. No party may assign as error the giving or the failure to give an instruction unless he objects thereto before the jury retires to consider its verdict, stating distinctly the matter to which he objects and the grounds of his objection. Opportunity shall be given to make the objection out of the hearing of the jury.

Reporter's notes

(1996) With the merger of the District Court rules into the Mass.R.Civ.P., Rule 51 in its entirety has been made applicable to the District Court, to the extent that Massachusetts law permits trial by jury in District Court civil actions.

(1973) Rule 51(a) will work no change in Massachusetts practice.

Rule 51(b) copies Federal Rule 51, and tracks prior Massachusetts practice.

Because the adoption of Rule 46 will eliminate the present formal Massachusetts requirement for exceptions, Rule 51(b) will only work a formal change in Massachusetts practice. Instead of taking an exception, an attorney under 51(b) must object to the giving or the failure to give a requested instruction before the jury retires to consider its verdict. He must also state his grounds therefor. Under former practice, failure properly to except resulted in waiver of objection, Herrick v. Waitt, 224 Mass. 415, 417 (1916); failure to object seasonably will have a similar effect under the new rules. Nimrod v. Sylvester, 369 F.2d 870, 872-873 (1st Cir.1966).

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