Rule 49 – Special Verdict; General Verdict and Questions

(a) Special Verdict.

(1) In General. The court may require a jury to return only a special verdict in the form of a special written finding on each issue of fact. The court may do so by:

(A) submitting written questions susceptible of a categorical or other brief answer;

(B) submitting written forms of the special findings that might properly be made under the pleadings and evidence; or

(C) using any other method that the court considers appropriate.

(2) Instructions. The court must give the instructions and explanations necessary to enable the jury to make its findings on each submitted issue.

(3) Issues Not Submitted. A party waives the right to a jury trial on any issue of fact raised by the pleadings or evidence but not submitted to the jury unless, before the jury retires, the party demands its submission to the jury. If the party does not demand submission, the court may make a finding on the issue. If the court makes no finding, it is considered to have made a finding consistent with its judgment on the special verdict.

(b) General Verdict with Answers to Written Questions.

(1) In General. The court may submit to the jury forms for a general verdict, together with written questions on one or more issues of fact that the jury must decide. The court must give the instructions and explanations necessary to enable the jury to render a general verdict and answer the questions in writing, and must direct the jury to do both.

(2) Verdict and Answers Consistent. When the general verdict and the answers are consistent, the court must approve, for entry under Rule 58, an appropriate judgment on the verdict and answers.

(3) Answers Inconsistent with the Verdict. When the answers are consistent with each other but one or more is inconsistent with the general verdict, the court may:

(A) approve, for entry under Rule 58, an appropriate judgment according to the answers, notwithstanding the general verdict;

(B) direct the jury to further consider its answers and verdict; or

(C) order a new trial.

(4) Answers Inconsistent with Each Other and the Verdict. When the answers are inconsistent with each other and one or more is also inconsistent with the general verdict, judgment must not be entered; instead, the court must direct the jury to further consider its answers and verdict, or must order a new trial.

Summary and Explanation

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 49 deals with the use of special verdicts and general verdicts accompanied by answers to written questions in federal civil trials. This rule allows for flexibility in how juries convey their findings and can help ensure greater precision in jury decisions. Here’s a concise summary and explanation:


  1. Special Verdicts:
  • Rule 49(a) outlines the procedure for special verdicts, where the jury is asked to make findings on specific questions of fact rather than to provide a general verdict. The court formulates questions relating to material issues of fact in the case, and the jury’s answers to these questions form the basis of the verdict. The judge then applies the law to these factual findings to reach a decision.
  1. General Verdicts with Written Questions:
  • Rule 49(b) allows for a general verdict accompanied by answers to written questions on one or more issues of fact essential to the judgment. This approach combines a traditional general verdict (where the jury decides which party wins) with the jury’s findings on specific factual questions that are crucial to the case.
  1. Procedure and Handling of Inconsistent Responses:
  • The rule provides guidelines for how the court should handle situations where the jury’s responses are inconsistent either with each other or with the general verdict. The court has discretion to adopt various remedies, such as directing the jury to further consider their answers, ordering a new trial, or entering judgment based on the answers consistent with the verdict.


Rule 49 serves multiple purposes in civil litigation. Special verdicts (Rule 49(a)) enhance the precision of jury decisions by requiring detailed findings on specific issues, which can be particularly useful in complex cases. This method strips down the verdict to its factual components, leaving the application of the law to those facts in the hands of the judge.

General verdicts with written questions (Rule 49(b)) provide a hybrid approach, allowing juries to deliver a broad judgment while also requiring them to address particular factual matters directly. This can help clarify the basis of the jury’s decision and facilitate the court’s application of the law, especially in cases where legal outcomes hinge on specific factual determinations.

The rule’s provisions for dealing with inconsistencies reflect an understanding of the complexities involved in jury deliberations and the potential for confusion. By allowing the court to address and resolve these inconsistencies in a flexible manner, Rule 49 ensures that the verdict accurately reflects the jury’s intentions and stands on a solid legal and factual foundation.

Overall, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 49 enhances the clarity and reliability of jury verdicts, ensuring that decisions are firmly grounded in the factual and legal issues presented in the case.


(As amended Jan. 21, 1963, eff. July 1, 1963; Mar. 2, 1987, eff. Aug. 1, 1987; Apr. 30, 2007, eff. Dec. 1, 2007.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1937

The Federal courts are not bound to follow state statutes authorizing or requiring the court to ask a jury to find a special verdict or to answer interrogatories. Victor American Fuel Co. v. Peccarich, 209 Fed. 568 (C.C.A.8th, 1913) cert. den. 232 U.S. 727 (1914); Spokane and I. E. R. Co. v. Campbell, 217 Fed. 518 (C.C.A.9th, 1914), affd. 241 U.S. 497 (1916); Simkins, Federal Practice (1934) §186. The power of a territory to adopt by statute the practice under Subdivision (b) has been sustained. Walker v. New Mexico and Southern Pacific R. R., 165 U.S. 593 (1897); Southwestern Brewery and Ice Co. v. Schmidt, 226 U.S. 162 (1912).

Compare Wis.Stat. (1935) §§270.27, 270.28 and 270.30 Green, A New Development in Jury Trial (1927), 13 A.B.A.J. 715; Morgan, A Brief History of Special Verdicts and Special Interrogatories (1923), 32 Yale L.J. 575.

The provisions of U.S.C., Title 28, [former] §400(3) (Declaratory judgments authorized; procedure) permitting the submission of issues of fact to a jury are covered by this rule.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1963 Amendment

This amendment conforms to the amendment of Rule 58. See the Advisory Committee’s Note to Rule 58, as amended.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1987 Amendment

The amendments are technical. No substantive change is intended.

Committee Notes on Rules—2007 Amendment

The language of Rule 49 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Civil Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only.

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