Saetrum v. Ada County Sheriff's Office et al

Filing 245

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL - IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that plaintiffs Motion for New Trial (Docket No. 236 ) be, and the same hereby is, DENIED. Signed by Judge William B. Shubb. (caused to be mailed to non Registered Participants at the addresses listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) by (cjs)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 DISTRICT OF IDAHO 10 ----oo0oo---- 11 12 ADAM TODD SAETRUM, Plaintiff, 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 CIV. NO. 1:13-425 WBS MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL v. ADA COUNTY SHERIFF GARY RANEY, in his individual capacity, DEPUTY ADA COUNTY SHERIFF JAKE VOGT, in his individual capacity, DEPUTY ADA COUNTY SHERIFF TYLER STENGER, in his individual capacity, ADA COUNTY DETECTIVE KEVIN LOUWSMA, in his individual capacity, and DEPUTY ADA COUNTY SHERIFF STEVE ROBINSON, in his individual capacity, Defendants. ----oo0oo---- 24 25 This excessive force case concerns plaintiff Adam Todd 26 Saetrum’s claims against defendant Deputy Ada County Sheriff Jake 27 Vogt based on defendant’s alleged striking of plaintiff with his 28 patrol car during an arrest. After a six-day trial, a jury found 1 1 that defendant did not strike plaintiff with his patrol car, and 2 the court entered judgment for defendant.1 3 for a new trial. 4 I. Plaintiff now moves (Docket No. 236.) Legal Standard 5 Pursuant to Rule 59, a “court may, on motion, grant a 6 new trial . . . after a jury trial, for any reason for which a 7 new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in 8 federal court.” 9 substantial evidence supports the jury’s verdict, a trial court 10 may grant a new trial if ‘the verdict is contrary to the clear 11 weight of the evidence, or is based upon evidence which is false, 12 or to prevent, in the sound discretion of the trial court, a 13 miscarriage of justice.’” 14 Desert Hot Springs, 251 F.3d 814, 819 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting 15 United States v. 4.0 Acres of Land, 175 F.3d 1133, 1139 (9th Cir. 16 1999)). 17 Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(a)(1)(A). “[E]ven if Silver Sage Partners, Ltd. v. City of However, in ruling on a motion for new trial a court 18 “must disregard any error or defect in the proceeding which does 19 not affect the substantial rights of the parties.” 20 P. 61. 21 rights where it is clear that a purported error did not affect 22 the outcome of trial. 23 Lines, Inc., 525 F.2d 927, 929-30 (5th Cir. 1976). 24 II. Fed. R. Civ. An error generally does not affect a party’s substantial See, e.g., Conway v. Chem. Leaman Tank Discussion 25 Defendant complains of various rulings the court made 26 27 28 1 Because the jury found that defendant did not strike plaintiff with his patrol car, it did not address whether defendant acted intentionally. (Docket No. 222.) 2 1 at and before trial on the admissibility of evidence. 2 the reasons the court made clear at the time of its rulings, the 3 court is satisfied that those rulings were correct. 4 court is equally satisfied that even if the case were to be re- 5 tried with all of the excluded evidence allowed, it is highly 6 unlikely that the outcome on retrial would be any different. 7 those reasons, the motion will be denied. 8 First, for Second, the For After this court denied defendant’s motion for summary 9 judgment, defendant took an interlocutory appeal to the Ninth 10 Circuit, and in a memorandum disposition, the Court of Appeals 11 affirmed in part and reversed in part, effectively splitting 12 plaintiff’s cause of action into two parts, which they termed the 13 “patrol car claim” and the “take-down claim.” 14 673 F. App’x 688 (9th Cir. 2016). 15 the denial of the motion for summary judgment on the patrol car 16 claim, thus allowing the case to proceed to trial on the issue of 17 whether defendant intentionally drove his patrol car into 18 plaintiff. 19 on the take-down claim on the grounds of qualified immunity.2 20 Saetrum v. Vogt, The Court of Appeals affirmed But the court reversed the denial of summary judgment The Ninth Circuit’s decision thus placed this court in 21 the difficult position of assuring that the jury did not award 22 damages for any injuries sustained as a result of the take-down. 23 Plaintiff claimed, and defendant disputed, that he suffered a 24 concussion. 25 being struck by the patrol car, but always claimed it was a Plaintiff never claimed that it was a result of 26 27 28 2 The take-down claim refers to plaintiff’s allegation that after defendant got out of his patrol car, he threw plaintiff to the ground, causing various injuries. 3 1 result of the take-down. 2 that the only way to effectively implement the Ninth Circuit’s 3 decision was to exclude evidence of the take-down and the alleged 4 concussion altogether. 5 that its ruling was correct and consistent with Rule 403 of the 6 Federal Rules of Evidence. 7 The court determined prior to trial The court continues to believe strongly If plaintiff had been permitted to talk about his 8 alleged concussion and call other witnesses to express their 9 opinions about it, defendant would have been permitted to present 10 its evidence that plaintiff never manifested any signs or 11 symptoms of a concussion. 12 time and diverted attention from the real issues in the case. 13 Worse, it would have made the jury wonder how plaintiff got the 14 concussion, and thus opened the door to evidence of the take- 15 down. 16 That would have unnecessarily consumed Most importantly, allowing evidence of the concussion 17 would have made no difference in the verdict. The jury 18 specifically found that defendant did not strike plaintiff with 19 his patrol car. 20 whether plaintiff later sustained a concussion or not could have 21 affected that finding. 22 AstenJohnson, Inc., 740 F.3d 457, 466 (9th Cir. 2014) (erroneous 23 admission or exclusion of evidence is reviewed for harmless error 24 “by asking if . . . the evidence affected the outcome of trial”) 25 (citations omitted); Richins v. Deere & Co., 231 F.R.D. 623, 626 26 (D.N.M. 2004) (exclusion of evidence did not warrant new trial 27 because movants had not shown that exclusion of the evidence was 28 prejudicial or that admitting the evidence would have led to a The court cannot conceive of how the question of See, e.g., Estate of Barabin v. 4 1 2 different result). Plaintiff also complains that the court excluded 3 evidence of an alleged abdominal injury. He notes that he 4 alleged an abdominal injury as a result of being struck by the 5 patrol car in his Fourth Amended Complaint (see Docket No. 115 at 6 ¶¶ XXVI, LIV-LV, LXII), and that he never formally withdrew this 7 allegation. 8 injury in his Ninth Circuit briefs, and more importantly, 9 plaintiff’s counsel expressly agreed with the Ninth Circuit panel However, plaintiff did not discuss an abdominal 10 at oral argument that if qualified immunity applied to 11 plaintiff’s head injury, the only remaining issue would be his 12 patrol car claim and the possible knee injury. 13 Counsel did not simply misspeak at the Ninth Circuit. 14 Plaintiff’s counsel represented to this court during multiple 15 status conferences after the appeal that the only injury at issue 16 was plaintiff’s knee injury, and plaintiff’s Supplemental 17 Pretrial Statement Re: Damages (Docket No. 170) made no mention 18 of an abdominal injury, referring only to his knee injury. 19 on these representations, both the court and defendant prepared 20 for a trial where no other injuries were at issue. 21 these circumstances, plaintiff waived his claim of an abdominal 22 injury as a result of being struck by defendant’s patrol car. 23 Moreover, because the jury found no liability, any error in 24 excluding evidence of injuries was harmless. 25 Based Under all Plaintiff also complains that he was not allowed to 26 cross examine Scott Haug, an expert witness called by defendant. 27 That witness was withdrawn before he gave any relevant testimony, 28 and plaintiff’s counsel waived cross examination. 5 If plaintiff’s 1 counsel had told the court he wanted to ask Haug any questions, 2 the court might have allowed it. 3 asked Haug could not have conceivably had any effect on the 4 jury’s determination that defendant did not strike plaintiff with 5 his car. 6 However, anything he could have Another trial ruling about which plaintiff complains in 7 this Motion is the court’s admission of a recording of 8 plaintiff’s conversation with a police officer during a prior 9 drug transaction. The court made clear its reasons for admitting 10 the recording. 11 “dropping off” drugs for his friend, the recording was properly 12 admitted for impeachment because it contradicts plaintiff’s 13 statement by showing that he was involved with another drug 14 transaction. 15 of plaintiff’s credibility as a witness, and the court did not 16 err in admitting it. 17 recording was harmless because it would not have affected the 18 jury’s verdict given plaintiff’s lack of credibility and 19 defendant’s highly credible testimony, as discussed above. 20 Estate of Barabin, 740 F.3d at 466. 21 Given plaintiff’s testimony that he was just In other words, the recording was highly probative Moreover, any error in admitting the See Finally, plaintiff complains that the court improperly 22 instructed the jury that plaintiff had to establish that 23 defendant acted intentionally in seizing the plaintiff. 24 instruction, which followed the Ninth Circuit’s pattern 25 instruction, was a correct statement of the law. 26 why plaintiff’s attorney himself proposed the instruction before 27 trial (see Docket No. 185 (Pl.’s Requested Instr. No. 25)), and 28 then agreed during trial that it was a correct statement of the 6 The Perhaps that is 1 law. 2 A Fourth Amendment seizure only occurs when “there is a 3 governmental termination of freedom of movement through means 4 intentionally applied,” and not when, for example, a “pursuing 5 police car sought to stop the suspect only by the show of 6 authority represented by flashing lights and continuing pursuit, 7 but accidentally stopped the suspect by crashing into him.” 8 County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 844 (1998) (emphasis 9 in original) (citation omitted). See Contrary to plaintiff’s 10 contention, nothing in County of Los Angeles v. Mendez, 137 S. 11 Ct. 1539 (2017), or any other case, for that matter, obviates the 12 requirement that a plaintiff show that the defendant acted 13 intentionally in a Section 1983 unreasonable seizure case. 14 Additionally, of course, because the jury expressly found 15 defendant did not strike plaintiff with his vehicle at all, any 16 error in instructing whether it had to be intentional would be 17 harmless. 18 IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that plaintiff’s Motion for New 19 Trial (Docket No. 236) be, and the same hereby is, DENIED. 20 Dated: October 11, 2017 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 7

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?