Feagins et al v. Trump Organization et al

Filing 179

ORDER that 176 Motion for New Trial is DENIED. Signed by Chief Judge Gloria M. Navarro on 9/11/17. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - MMM)

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1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 DISTRICT OF NEVADA 3 KEVIN FEAGINS, et al., 4 Plaintiffs, 5 vs. 6 OTIS ELEVATOR COMPANY, et al., 7 Defendants. 8 ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) Case No.: 2:11-cv-1121-GMN-GWF ORDER 9 On September 28, 2016, the Court concluded a three-day jury trial, in which the jury 10 11 assessed damages in the amount of $17,500.00 in favor of Plaintiff Andre Feagins. (See Verdict 12 Forms, ECF Nos. 165, 167). Now pending before the Court is Plaintiffs’ Motion for New Trial 13 solely on the issue of damages pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a). (ECF No. 14 176). Defendant Otis Elevator Company (“Defendant”) filed a response, (ECF No. 177), and 15 Plaintiffs filed a reply, (ECF No. 178). For the reasons discussed herein, Plaintiffs’ Motion for 16 New Trial is DENIED. 17 18 I. LEGAL STANDARD Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)(1) provides that “[t]he court may, on motion, 19 grant a new trial on all or some of the issues—and to any party—as follows: (A) after a jury 20 trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in 21 federal court [.]” While Rule 59 does not specify the grounds on which a motion for a new trial 22 may be granted, “[h]istorically recognized grounds include, but are not limited to, claims ‘that 23 the verdict is against the weight of the evidence, that the damages are excessive, or that, for 24 other reasons, the trial was not fair to the party moving.’” Molski v. M.J. Cable, Inc., 481 F.3d 25 724, 729 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Montgomery Ward & Co. v. Duncan, 311 U.S. 243, 251 Page 1 of 3 1 (1940)). A new trial should not be granted unless, after giving full respect to the jury’s 2 findings, the Court “is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been 3 committed.” Landes Const. Co. v. Royal Bank of Canada, 833 F.2d 1365, 1371-72 (9th Cir. 4 1987). “The grant of a new trial is ‘confided almost entirely to the exercise of discretion on the 5 part of the trial court.’” Murphy v. City of Long Beach, 914 F.2d 183, 186 (9th Cir. 1990) 6 (quoting Allied Chem. Corp. v. Daiflon, Inc., 449 U.S. 33 (1980)). 7 8 II. DISCUSSION Plaintiffs argue that the Court should grant a new trial because: (1) the jury mistakenly 9 failed to follow the jury instructions; and (2) the verdict is against the clear weight of evidence. 10 (Mot. for New Trial, ECF No. 176). Specifically, Plaintiffs believe that the jurors’ affirmative 11 answer to “Question No. 5” on the special verdict form indicates that the jury determined each 12 plaintiff was entitled to damages. (Pl.’s Reply 2:16–24, ECF No. 178). According to Plaintiffs, 13 “[t]he failure to assess Plaintiffs’ damages or injuries determined to have been suffered by all of 14 them in the special verdict form cannot be reconciled with the assessment of damages in the 15 general verdict form for only Plaintiff Andre Feagins . . . .” (Id. 4:1–3) 16 The Court does not agree with Plaintiffs’ characterization of the verdict forms. Question 17 No. 5 in the special verdict form reads: “[w]as the defect a proximate cause of damage or injury 18 to the plaintiffs?” (Special Jury Verdict, ECF No. 167). In answering “yes” to this question, the 19 jury is in no way indicating that damages must be awarded to all of the plaintiffs. Rather, the 20 assessment of damages to any one of the plaintiffs necessarily requires an affirmative answer to 21 this question. 22 The relationship between Question No. 5 and the ultimate calculation of damages is 23 further clarified by Jury Instruction No. 16, which states that “[i]n determining the amount of 24 losses, if any, suffered by the plaintiffs as a proximate result of the accident in question, you 25 will take into consideration the nature, extent and duration of the injuries . . . .” (Jury Page 2 of 3 1 Instructions, ECF No. 162) (emphasis added). The jury therefore had the discretion to evaluate 2 whether Defendant was the proximate cause of any damages to Plaintiffs generally, and if so, 3 separately determine the amount of damages, if any, entitled to each individual plaintiff. 4 The Court therefore finds that the jury properly followed the instructions and did not 5 render a contradictory verdict. Furthermore, the Court rejects Plaintiffs’ contention that the 6 verdict is against the clear weight of evidence. See Molski, 481 F.3d at 729. 7 III. 8 9 CONCLUSION IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ Motion for New Trial, (ECF No. 176), is DENIED. 10 11 11 DATED this _____ day of September, 2017. 12 13 14 ___________________________________ Gloria M. Navarro, Chief Judge United States District Court 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 Page 3 of 3

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