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Lucio Corral Rodriguez, Individually and As Successor In v. County of Stanislaus; City of

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


August 9, 2011

LUCIO CORRAL RODRIGUEZ, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SUCCESSOR IN INTEREST TO THE DECEDENTS, MARICRUZ CORRAL, IVAN ALEXANDER CORRAL, AND LUCIO ANTHONY CORRAL,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF STANISLAUS; CITY OF MODESTO; CITY OF RIVERBANK; STATE OF CALIFORNIA, AMTRAK CALIFORNIA; BURLINGTON NORTHERN SANTA FE RAILWAY; AND DOES 1 TO 200,
DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger United States District Judge

ORDER RE POST-TRIAL MOTIONS AND ENTRY OF JUDGMENT. (DOC. 452, 454)

This case arises from a collision between a train operated by National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak") and a vehicle driven by Lucio Corral Rodriguez's ("Plaintiff") wife, Maricruz Corral, resulting in the death of Maricruz Corral and Plaintiff's two children (together, "Decedents"). Plaintiff sued several defendants, including Amtrak, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway ("BNSF"), and the State of California, Department of Transportation (together, "Defendants").

A twelve-day jury trial began on December 8, 2010 and culminated with a jury verdict on January 14, 2011. A mistrial was declared as to punitive damages. A separate trial on punitive damages is scheduled to begin November 29, 2011.

Plaintiff moved for (1) entry of judgment against Amtrak and the State of California and (2) accrual of interest from the date of filing of the jury's original verdict. (Doc. 452). Defendants filed an opposition seeking a setoff and sanctions (Doc. 453), to which Plaintiff replied (Doc. 456). Defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law regarding punitive damages (Doc. 454), which Plaintiff opposed (Doc. 455). A hearing on the motions was held May 23, 2011. The parties submitted supplemental briefs on the issue of pre and post judgment interest. Docs. 464, 465.

On July 5, 2011, the court issued a memorandum decision and order (i) granting in part and denying in part Plaintiff's post-trial motion and (ii) denying Defendants' post-trial motion. Doc. 469. Plaintiff submitted a proposed form of order consistent with the memorandum decision and order. Doc. 470. Defendants filed an opposition to Plaintiff's proposed judgment, contending that given the court's denial of Amtrak's renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law as to punitive damages, partial judgment may not be entered under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). Doc. 471. Because Defendants advanced arguments that were not previously raised in their opposition to Plaintiff's post-trial motions, the court issued a minute order allowing Plaintiff until August 3, 2011 to oppose Defendants' opposition. Doc. 472. Plaintiff did not file a supplemental opposition.

Rule 54(b) provides that "[w]hen an action presents more than one claim for relief . . . the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay." Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b). For Rule 54(b) to apply, "claims must be multiple and at least one must have been adjudicated fully." Ariz. State Carpenters Pension Trust Fund v. Miller th , 938 F.2d 1038, 1039 (9 Cir. 1991) (quoting Cont'l Airlines, Inc. v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 819 F.2d 1519, 1524 (9th Cir. 1987)). "[W]hen liability rests on the same transaction or series of transactions, a count for punitive damages, although of a different order than compensatory damages, does not constitute a separate claim under Rule 54(b)." Ariz. State Carpenters, 938 F.2d at 1040. Here, Plaintiff's claims for compensatory damages and punitive damages are "inextricably intertwined" because "[b]oth the basic theories of recovery and the core set of operative facts comprising the primary proof on the compensatory and punitive damage counts would be the same." Id. Plaintiff's punitive damages claim is not separate from his compensatory damages claim, and partial judgment cannot be entered as to Plaintiff's award of compensatory damages.

IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that:

1.Plaintiff's motion for proposed judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, as follows:

a.Plaintiff's motion for entry of judgment as to Amtrak's liability is GRANTED, in the following amount:

$863,359.00 Total economic damages - $431,679.50 Reduction of economic damages by Maricruz Corral's 50% fault - $178,778.93 Reduction of economic damages by economic portion of County of Stanislaus settlement $252,900.57 Plaintiff's economic damages $3,000,000.00 Total non-economic damages - $1,500,000.00 Reduction of non-economic damages by Maricruz Corral's 50% fault $1,500,000.00 Plaintiff's non-economic damages

$1,752,900.57 Amtrak's total liability to Plaintiff for compensatory damages

Final judgment will not be entered until Plaintiff's punitive damages claims are adjudicated.

b.Plaintiff's motion for judgment against the State of California is DENIED.

c.Plaintiff's motion for pre-judgment interest is DENIED.

d.Plaintiff's motion for post-judgment interest is GRANTED. Post-judgment interest shall accrue from the date of this Order.

2.Defendant's request for sanctions and renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law as to punitive damages are DENIED.

SO ORDERED.

Oliver W. Wanger

20110809

© 1992-2011 VersusLaw Inc.



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