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T.D.W. v. Riverside County

March 11, 2010

T.D.W.; ET AL. PLAINTIFFS,
v.
RIVERSIDE COUNTY; ET AL. RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Christina A. Snyder United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL AND DENYING DEFENDANTS' RULE 50 MOTIONS

I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

On February 25, 2008, Thelma Byrd, guardian ad litem for minor plaintiff T.D.W.; Diane Rust, guardian ad litem for minor plaintiff B.D.R.; and Karen Phelps, guardian ad litem for minor plaintiff K.W., filed this action against defendants Riverside County and Riverside County Sheriff's Deputies Does 1 through 10. On September 15, 2008, the Court granted plaintiffs leave to file a first amended complaint ("FAC"). On October 3, 2009, plaintiffs filed a FAC against defendants Riverside county; Armando Portales ("Portales"), Juvien Galzote ("Galzote"), Isaac Perez ("Perez"), and Andrew Sullivan ("Sullivan"), each individually and as County of Riverside Deputy Sheriffs; and Riverside County Sheriff's Deputies Does 4 through 10.

Plaintiffs are the surviving minor children of Keith Silas Watkins ("Watkins" or "decedent"). FAC ¶ 3. Plaintiffs allege that Portales, Galzote, Perez, and Sullivan fatally shot Watkins on January 23, 2007, and that this use of force against Watkins was unreasonable, excessive, and deadly. FAC ¶ 11-12, 14. Plaintiffs brought claims for (1) civil rights violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983") and (2) wrongful death.

On June 12, 2009, the Court dismissed plaintiff T.D.W. without prejudice as a result of T.D.W. and Byrd's repeated failure to appear for deposition and failure to respond the Court's order to show cause.

This case was tried to a jury on September 22-25, 2009 and September 29-30, 2009. On September 30, 2009, the jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs. The jury found:

QUESTION 1: Did plaintiffs prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Officers Armando Portales, Juvien Galzote, Isaac Perez, or Andrew Sullivan used excessive force against Keith Watkins?

Armando Portales YES_____ NO_X___

Juvien Galzote YES_____ NO_X___

Isaac Perez YES_____ NO_X___

Andrew Sullivan YES_____ NO_X___

Special Verdict Form.

On November 16, 2009, plaintiffs filed the instant motion for a new trial. On December 4, 2009, defendants filed an opposition. A reply was filed on December 21, 2009. A hearing was held on March 8, 2010. After carefully considering the arguments set forth by the parties, the Court finds and concludes as follows.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A court may grant a new trial if the jury's verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence. Landes Const. Co., Inc. v. Royal Bank of Can., 833 F.2d 1365, 1371 (9th Cir. 1987). In considering a Fed. R. Civ. P. 59 motion, the court may "weigh the evidence and assess the credibility of witnesses, and need not view the evidence from the perspective most favorable to the prevailing party." Id. at 1371-72 (citing 11 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure ยง 2806, at 48-49 (1973) ("If, having given full respect to the jury's findings, the judge on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed, it is to be expected that he will grant a new trial.")). However, the ...


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