Barfield et al v. Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative et al
ORDER by Judge Nanette K. Laughrey. Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration, Doc. 890 , is DENIED. The Court reaffirms its decision to vacate the judgment as to both actual and punitive damages and to order a new trial concerning both actual and punitive damages. (Sreeprakash, Netra)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
CHASE BARFIELD, et al.,
SHO-ME POWER ELECTRIC
COOPERATIVE, et al.,
Case No. 2:11-cv-04321-NKL
On September 5, 2017, a Clerk’s Judgment was entered in this case following a six-day
The jury awarded $129,211,337 in actual damages and $1,300,000 in punitive
damages. Doc. 863. The Court then sua sponte vacated the judgment and ordered a new trial,
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(d).
Plaintiffs now move for
reconsideration of that order. Doc. 890. After careful consideration, Plaintiff’s motion for
reconsideration is denied.
The Court previously concluded that a new trial was warranted for the following reasons:
(a) evidence of the defendants’ costs and revenues did not support a finding that a third party or
Defendants would have been willing to rent an easement from the plaintiff class for a sum
exceeding $129 million; (b) revenue numbers admitted should have been limited to the time
period of Plaintiffs’ claim; (c) for actual damages, projected revenue should not have been
admitted; (d) revenue should have been limited to that derived from the trespass, rather than from
the commercial telecommunications services generally; (e) the Court erred in not instructing the
jury on commercial viability.
A district court may grant a new trial when the first trial resulted in a miscarriage of
justice because of legal errors at trial. Trickey v. Kaman Indus. Techs. Corp., 705 F.3d 788, 807
(8th Cir. 2013). “Errors in evidentiary rulings are prejudicial only where the error likely affected
the jury’s verdict.” Id. (quotation marks and citation omitted).
Upon reconsideration, the Court finds it erred, at a minimum, when it admitted evidence
of projected revenue and revenue from outside the time period relevant to Plaintiffs’ claim.
While that evidence may have been admissible during the punitive-damage phase, it should have
been excluded during the actual-damage phase of the trial.
Introduction of this evidence also carried a significant risk of prejudice. Despite the
Court’s limiting instruction (see Doc. 868, at 285:17-286:2), it is more likely than not that the
jury considered the $320 million in revenues when it adopted Dr. Kilpatrick’s conclusion that
$129 was a fair estimate of the value of the telecommunications corridor over the Plaintiffs’ land.
For the reasons stated above, Plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration is denied. The Court
reaffirms its decision to vacate the judgment as to both actual and punitive damages and to order
a new trial concerning both actual and punitive damages.
s/ Nanette K. Laughrey
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY
United States District Judge
Dated: April 11, 2018
Jefferson City, Missouri
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