Cartwright v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION re 93 Order on Motion for Judgment NOV, Order on Motion for New Trial. Signed by Senior Judge Glen H. Davidson on 8/15/17. (rel)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
NAKENY A CARTWRIGHT
CIVIL ACTION NO. 4:l4-cv-00057-GHD
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE
INSURANCE COMPANY and
STATE FARM INSURANCE COMPANIES
MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT
NOTWITHSTANDING THE VERDICT OR FOR A NEW TRIAL
Presently before the Court is a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for a
new trial  filed by Plaintiff Nakenya Cartwright ("Plaintiff"). Defendant State Farm Mutual
Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm,,)l has filed a response in opposition. Plaintiff has
not filed a reply, and the time for doing so has now passed. The matter is ripe for review. The
Court has carefully considered Plaintiffs arguments concerning her motion for judgment
notwithstanding the verdict or for a new trial, as well as attached documentation, the trial
transcript, the trial exhibits, and all authorities bearing on the matter. The Court is of the opinion
that none of Plaintiffs arguments have merit and that the jury verdict should stand, for the
reasons stated below.
Federal Rule ofCivil Procedure 59 Standard
Rule 50(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides in pertinent part: "[N]o later
than 28 days after the jury was discharged[,] the movant may file a renewed motion for judgment
as a matter of law and may include an alternative or joint request for a new trial under Rule 59."
FED. R. Crv. P. 50(b). Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides in pertinent part
J State Fann Mutual Automobile Insurance Company maintains that it and State Fann Insurance
Companies are one and the same and that it is properly named "State Fann Mutual Automobile Insurance
that "[t]he court may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the issues-and to any
party- ... after a jury trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in
an action at law in federal court ...." FED. R. ClV. P. 59(a)(l)(A). Such a motion "must be filed
no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment." FED. R. CIv. P. 59(b). Because the instant
motion for a new trial was filed within 28 days of the entry of judgment, it shall be construed as
a Rule 59 motion. See, e.g., Komolafe v. Dewease, 87 F. App'x 385, 2004 WL 304198, at *1
(5th Cir. 2004) (per curiam) (citing Teal v. Eagle Fleet, Inc., 933 F.2d 341, 347 n.3 (5th Cir.
1991) (post-judgment motion for new trial and/or for relief from judgment was properly
considered under Rule 59 because it was filed within the requisite Rule 59 time period)).
"A district court has discretion to grant a new trial under Rule 59(a) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure when it is necessary to do so 'to prevent an injustice.' " Jones v. Ruiz, 478 F.
App'x 834, 835 (5th Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (quoting United States v. Flores, 981 F.2d 231, 237
(5th Cir. 1993)). Although Rule 59(a) does not state appropriate grounds for a new trial, "[a]
new trial may be appropriate if the verdict is against the weight of the evidence, the amount
awarded is excessive, or the trial was unfair or marred by prejudicial error." Scott v. Monsanto
Co., 868 F.2d 786, 789 (5th Cir. 1989) (internal citation omitted). "Courts do not grant new
trials unless it is reasonably clear that prejudicial error has crept into the record or that substantial
justice has not been done, and the burden of showing harmful error rests on the party seeking the
new trial." Sibley v. Lemaire, 184 F.3d 481, 487 (5th Cir. 1999).
Analysis and Discussion
Plaintiff filed this action against State Farm to recover damages allegedly caused by State
Farm's failure to pay uninsured motorist benefits following an automobile accident.
accident occurred in an automobile driven by Valerie Sproull in which Plaintiff was the
passenger. Pretrial Order 
4, 8(a), 9(a)(3). Plaintiff claimed that she suffered physical
and emotional damages due to Ms. Sproull's alleged failure to exercise control of her vehicle,
her excessive speed, and her failure to keep a proper lookout, as well as other alleged acts of
8(a). State Farm's position was that the accident was unavoidable and that Ms.
Sproull was not negligent in her response to the deer, which State Farm maintains suddenly
entered the roadway from the grass median and struck Ms. Sproull's driver's side front of her
The case proceeded to trial on June 19,2017. The parties agreed that uninsured motorist
benefits would be available to Plaintiff if the jury found that (1) Ms. Sproull was negligent in
contributing to the accident and (2) the damages exceeded the $25,000.00 in liability benefits
previously tendered to Plaintiff, subject to the available limits of uninsured motorist coverage
totaling $25,000.00. Id.
9(a)(4). On June 20,2017, the jury returned a verdict in favor of State
Farm, and the Court subsequently entered judgment in favor of State Farm. See Jury Verdict
[88J; Clerk's J. .
On June 29, 2017, Plaintiff filed the present motion for judgment notwithstanding the
verdict or for a new trial , wherein she argues that the evidence at trial did not support the
First, Plaintiff argues that "[d]uring the trial, the driver [Ms.] Sproull of the vehicle in
which [Plaintiff] was a passenger admitted to speeding at the time of the accident" and further
argues that "[Plaintiff] proved her damages were caused by such negligence per se." Pl.'s Mot.
1. Notwithstanding Verdict or for New Trial  at 1 (emphasis in original). Second, Plaintiff
argues that "[Ms. Sproull] clearly admitted she failed to keep a proper lookout and did not see
the obvious hazard of a deer approaching the roadway from the left in the unblocked median,
which is an obvious legal assumption that the roadway is clear, which is another admission of
negligence per se." Id. Plaintiff maintains that "[n]o reasonable jury could find that traveling at
a high rate of speed in excess of the posted speed limit and admitted failure to keep a proper
lookout by assumption that the roadway is clear did not cause or contribute to striking a deer on
the roadway." Id. at 2 (emphasis in original). Plaintiff thus argues that the weight of the
evidence favored judgment for Plaintiff and not State Farm.
State Farm argues in response that the jury verdict was supported by substantial evidence
and that Plaintiff s proof concerning liability was disputed by her own words. State Farm points
to evidence in the record, including Plaintiff s recorded statement and transcript introduced into
evidence that was taken approximately 1 week after the accident. In that statement, Plaintiff
stated that Ms. Sproull could have done nothing to prevent hitting the deer; her specific words
were that the deer "[leapt] out of nowhere" and "just ran into us" and that Ms. Sproull "did a
damn good job" during the accident. See D-l at 3, 6-7. State Farm further points to Ms.
Sproull's testimony at trial that she was paying attention at the time of the accident, but the deer
came out of nowhere and struck her vehicle. State Farm also cites Ms. Sproull's trial testimony
that she "could have been driving" from 65 to 68 miles per hour. State Farm further points to the
fact that Plaintiff did not move for a directed verdict on the issue of negligence per se and
correctly reiterates the law that a finding of negligence per se is not equivalent to a finding of
liability for negligence. State Farm also argues that evidence at trial disputed Plaintiffs claims
of injury, including evidence that Plaintiffs diagnosis of a torn rotator cuff was not given until 1
year and 4 months after the accident and evidence that Plaintiff was diagnosed with chronic pain
condition fibromyalgia approximately 2 months prior to the accident. State Farm further points
to State Farm's dispute of Plaintiffs medical expenses as related to the subject accident. Finally,
For all of the foregoing reasons, the Court finds that the jury verdict
Defendant State Fann and against Plaintiff Nakenya Cartwright should stand.
dissatisfaction with the jury's weighing of evidence or detennination of witness credibility is not
a valid ground on which to grant judgment as a matter of law [or] a new trial ...." Bovie-Clark
v. Sentry Select Ins. Co., 568 F. App'x 312, 313 (5th Cir. 2014) (per curiam). Therefore,
Plaintiff Nakenkya Cartwright's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for a new
trial  is DENIED.
An order in accordance with this opinion shall issue this
jl ofAugust, 2017.
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