Davis v. Woodford et al

Filing 182

ORDER signed by Judge John A. Mendez on 3/23/2015 DENYING plaintiff's 175 Motion for New Trial. (Marciel, M)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 10 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 11 12 CHARLES T. DAVIS, 13 16 2:05-cv-1898-JAM-EFB Plaintiff, 14 15 No. v. EDDIE SIMMERSON, ANTHONY AMERO, CHARLES HOUGHLAND and BRYON VON RADER, 17 ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR A NEW TRIAL OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE A DIRECTED VERDICT Defendants. 18 Plaintiff Charles T. Davis (“Plaintiff”) moves for a “new 19 20 trial or in the alternative a directed verdict due to fraud” 21 (Doc. #175). 22 Houghland, and Bryon Von Rader (collectively “Defendants”) oppose 23 the motion (Doc. #177). 1 24 Plaintiff’s motion is DENIED. 25 /// 26 /// Defendants Eddie Simmerson, Anthony Amero, Charles For the reasons that follow, 27 1 28 This motion was determined to be suitable for decision without oral argument. E.D. Cal. L.R. 230(g). 1 1 2 I. BACKGROUND Plaintiff, a California prison inmate, brought this suit 3 against Defendants, alleging civil rights violations. The matter 4 was tried before a jury, and a verdict was returned, finding for 5 Defendants on all causes of action. 6 in favor of Defendants against Plaintiff, Plaintiff submitted a 7 motion for a new trial or in the alternative, a directed verdict 8 due to fraud. 9 for a directed verdict as one for judgment as a matter of law. After judgment was entered The Court will hereinafter reference the request 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 II. A. OPINION Legal Standard 1. Judgment as a Matter of Law Plaintiff moves for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b). After a jury has returned a verdict, Rule 50(b) permits a 17 party to renew its prior Rule 50(a) motion for judgment as a 18 matter of law. 19 951, 961 (9th Cir. 2009); Mitri v. Walgreen Co., No. 1:10-CV- 20 00538 AWI, 2014 WL 6886835, at *1 (E.D. Cal. 2014). 21 motion for judgment as a matter of law is appropriate when “the 22 evidence, construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving 23 party, permits only one reasonable conclusion, and that 24 conclusion is contrary to the jury's verdict.” 25 Eugene, 736 F.3d 1251, 1256 (9th Cir. 2013); Harper v. City of 26 L.A., 533 F.3d 1010, 1021 (9th Cir. 2008). 27 relevant evidence as reasonable minds might accept as adequate to 28 support [the jury's] conclusion,” then a Rule 50(b) motion should See EEOC v. Go Daddy Software, Inc., 581 F.3d 2 A renewed Hagen v. City of If there is “such 1 be denied. 2 50(b) motion, a court should review all of the evidence in the 3 record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and 4 must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving 5 party. 6 150–51 (2000); see Harper, 533 F.3d at 1021. 7 reasonable inference cannot be supported by only threadbare 8 conclusory statements instead of significant probative evidence;” 9 nor may a jury's conclusion be based on mere speculation. Hagen, 736 F.3d at 1257. When considering a Rule Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, However, “a 10 Lakeside–Scott v. Multnomah Cnty., 556 F.3d 797, 802–03 (9th Cir. 11 2009). 12 The court “may not make credibility determinations or weigh 13 the evidence” and “must disregard all evidence favorable to the 14 moving party that the jury is not required to believe.” 15 530 U.S. at 150–51; see Harper, 533 F.3d at 1021. 16 must accept the jury's credibility findings consistent with the 17 verdict . . . [and] may not substitute its view of the evidence 18 for that of the jury.” 19 Inc., 274 F.3d 1276, 1283 (9th Cir. 2001). 20 must be upheld if it is supported by substantial evidence, which 21 is evidence adequate to support the jury's conclusion, even if it 22 is also possible to draw a contrary conclusion.” 23 Johnson, Rodenburg, & Lauinger, LLC, 637 F.3d 939, 955 (9th Cir. 24 2011); Harper, 533 F.3d at 1021. 25 motion is a renewed motion, “a party cannot properly raise 26 arguments in its post-trial motion for judgment as a matter of 27 law under Rule 50(b) that it did not raise in its pre-verdict 28 Rule 50(a) motion.” Reeves, “The court Winarto v. Toshiba Am. Elecs. Components, “A jury's verdict McCollough v. Finally, because a Rule 50(b) Go Daddy, 581 F.3d at 961; Freund v. Nycomed 3 1 Amersham, 347 F.3d 752, 761 (9th Cir. 2003). 2 3 2. New Trial Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)(1)(a) provides: “The 4 court may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the 5 issues--and to any party . . . after a jury trial, for any reason 6 for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at 7 law in federal court.” 8 9 “[R]ule 59 does not specify the grounds on which a motion for a new trial may be granted”; therefore, district courts must 10 look to “grounds that have been historically recognized.” 11 v. Am. Gem Seafoods, Inc., 339 F.3d 1020, 1035 (9th Cir. 2003); 12 see also Hunt v. Fields, No. 2:09-CV-3525 KJM AC, 2014 WL 13 1757211, at *3 (E.D. Cal. 2014). 14 contrary to the weight of the evidence or is based on false or 15 perjurious evidence; or unfairness to the moving party. Molski 16 v. M.J. Cable, Inc., 481 F.3d 724, 729 (9th Cir. 2007). A court 17 may order a new trial if an erroneous evidentiary ruling 18 substantially prejudiced a party or if its instructions were 19 erroneous or inadequate. 20 Allstate Ins. Co., 278 F.3d 979, 985 n. 24 (9th Cir. 2002). 21 Zhang These include a verdict that is Harper, 533 F.3d at 1030; Jazzabi v. “The grant of a new trial is ‘confided almost entirely to 22 the exercise of discretion on the part of the trial court.’” 23 Murphy v. City of Long Beach, 914 F.2d 183, 186 (9th Cir. 1990) 24 (quoting Allied Chem. Corp. v. Daiflon, Inc., 449 U.S. 33, 36 25 (1980)). 26 weigh the evidence and credibility of the witnesses,” it should 27 not grant a new trial “merely because it might have come to a 28 different result from that reached by the jury.” Even though in the Rule 59 context “the trial court may 4 Roy v. 1 Volkswagen of Am., Inc., 896 F.2d 1174, 1176 (9th Cir. 1990) 2 (internal quotation marks omitted). 3 District of California Local Rule 291.2.provides: 4 5 6 7 8 9 In addition, the Eastern Motions for new trial shall state with specific references to relevant portions of any existing record and to any supporting affidavits: (1) the particular errors of law claimed, (2) if a ground is insufficiency of the evidence, the particulars thereof, and (3) if a ground is newly discovered evidence, the particulars thereof, together with a full[,] complete description of the facts relating to the discovery of such evidence and the movant's diligence in connection therewith. A motion for new trial and any opposition thereto shall be supported by briefs. 10 11 12 13 B. Analysis 1. Judgment as a Matter of Law (“Directed Verdict”) Plaintiff contends he is entitled to judgment as a matter of 14 law because (1) Defendants’ counsel committed fraud during the 15 discovery process and (2) there is adequate evidence supporting 16 the conclusion the jury rested its verdict on something other 17 than the evidence. 18 Motion at p. 3. Defendants first contend the motion for judgment as a matter 19 of law should be denied because Plaintiff did not make a Rule 20 50(a) motion before the case was submitted to the jury, a 21 prerequisite to renewing the motion after the verdict has been 22 returned pursuant to Rule 50(b). 23 argues this procedural issue should not be fatal as it would 24 allow Defendants to “benefit from their own wrongdoing.” 25 (Doc. #180) at pp. 1-2. 26 Rule 50(b) motion despite Plaintiff’s failure to make a timely 27 Rule 50(a) motion. 28 Opp. at pp. 2-3. Plaintiff Reply The Court will address the merits of the Plaintiff alleges Defendants’ counsel committed “deliberate 5 1 fraud,” acted in “bad faith,” and engaged in “reckless conduct” 2 resulting in “prejudicial error” and “substantial and injurious 3 effect.” 4 such allegations, and the Court denies the motion as to these 5 grounds. 6 Motion at pp. 5-7. The record simply does not support Plaintiff next contends the jury’s verdict rested on 7 something other than evidence as indicated by the jury returning 8 a verdict “too fast.” 9 evidence the jury’s verdict was based on anything but the Motion at p. 8. The Court finds no 10 evidence. 11 error on these combined grounds warranting a directed verdict. 12 Even putting aside Plaintiff’s failure to comply with the 13 procedural requirements of Rule 50, the Court finds the record 14 contains “evidence adequate to support the jury's conclusion,” 15 and therefore denies the motion for judgment as a matter of law. 16 McCollough, 637 F.3d at 955. 17 18 The Court also does not find there was cumulative 2. New Trial Plaintiff contends he is entitled to a new trial because the 19 Court erred in the following ways: (1) by excluding eighteen 20 exhibits needed by Plaintiff to establish the allegations that 21 Defendants’ conduct was motivated by a systemic custom and policy 22 of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation 23 (“CDCR”); (2) by denying his motion to compel discovery 24 responses; (3) by refusing to incorporate Plaintiff’s questions 25 into voir dire; (4) by not including Plaintiff’s specific request 26 for $20,000 in compensatory damages in the jury instructions; 27 (5) by defining the distinction between retaliatory damages and 28 the injury that supports damages; (6) by not providing separate 6 1 verdict forms and jury instructions defining oppression and 2 intimidation as requested for “pin-point findings”; (7) by 3 refusing to issue subpoenas to Plaintiff’s witnesses; (8) by 4 dismissing the claims against previously named defendants 5 Runnels, Meier, Barns, and Miranda; (9) by not allowing Plaintiff 6 to raise his state claims; and (10) by denying Plaintiff counsel 7 when he was on medication that mentally impaired his ability to 8 prosecute the case. 9 Motion at pp. 3-4. After considering Plaintiff’s contentions, the Court finds 10 no basis upon which to grant a new trial. 11 each ground cited by Plaintiff briefly in turn. The Court will address 12 The Court’s exclusion of evidence regarding a custom, 13 policy, practice and pattern of CDCR was not error as the only 14 claims that survived to trial were against the individual 15 Defendants. 16 any citations to the record or evidence how denial of his motion 17 to compel was in error or would support the granting of a new 18 trial. 19 dire are similarly baseless. 20 selection was properly conducted. 21 Motion at p. 10. Id. at p. 11. Plaintiff fails to explain with Plaintiff’s contentions regarding voir Id. The Court finds that jury Plaintiff contends it was error for the Court to refuse to 22 include Plaintiff’s specific request for $20,000 in compensatory 23 damages in the jury instructions. 24 Plaintiff fails to explain how this refusal constituted error or 25 could serve as the basis for granting a new trial. 26 dissatisfaction with the Court’s definition of damages and injury 27 is irrelevant as the jury did not find Defendants liable. 28 Similarly, Plaintiff’s arguments regarding the Court’s failure to 7 Motion at p. 12. However, Plaintiff’s Id. 1 instruct on the definitions of “oppression” and “intimidation” 2 are unpersuasive as the terms were irrelevant to the questions 3 presented to the jury. 4 Id. As Plaintiff has failed to provide any legal basis for the 5 contention, the Court finds it has not committed “prejudicial 6 error” in failing to shift the costs associated with Plaintiff’s 7 production of witnesses to the Defendants. 8 Plaintiff next contends it was error for the Court to dismiss the 9 claims against previously named defendants Runnels, Meier, Barns, Motion at p. 13. 10 and Miranda because they were knowledgeable witnesses that could 11 have provided relevant testimony. 12 dismissing these individuals as defendants did not preclude their 13 being called as witnesses; the Court finds no error. 14 Id. The Court’s order Plaintiff states the Court “should also reconsider allowing 15 the state claims to be presented in a new trial.” 16 14. 17 of a new trial. 18 Motion at p. The Court finds this request fails to support the granting Finally, Plaintiff contends the Court erred by failing to 19 provide him counsel at trial. Motion at p. 14. Plaintiff argues 20 he was on medications during the trial that affected his mental 21 functioning and that it should have been clear to the Court. 22 Plaintiff made no mention of this at trial, and the Court finds 23 no basis for granting a new trial on this newly alleged and 24 factually unsupported ground. 25 To the extent the “Summary of Arguments” is intended to 26 constitute additional grounds for the granting of a new trial or 27 judgment as a matter of law, the Court finds no support in the 28 record of any prejudicial error. Motion at pp. 15-19. 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 III. ORDER For the reasons set forth above, the Court DENIES Plaintiff’s motion. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: March 23, 2015 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 9

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