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Waters v. Howard Sommers Towing, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

November 10, 2014

B. BENEDICT WATERS
v.
HOWARD SOMMERS TOWING, INC., ET AL

Attorneys for Plaintiffs: None Present.

Attorneys for Defendants: None Present.

CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

The Honorable CHRISTINA A. SNYDER.

Proceedings: ( In Chambers ) PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW (Dkt. #335, filed September 26, 2014)

I. INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed the instant action in this Court on July 19, 2010. Following motion practice that disposed of several of plaintiff's claims, the Court held a jury trial on plaintiff's remaining claims beginning on April 30, 2013. On May 7, 2013, the jury returned a special verdict. Dkt. #258. The jury found against plaintiff with respect to all of his remaining claims, with the exception of plaintiff's claim that Officer Ciro Ochoa of the Los Angeles Police Department unlawfully conducted a pat-down search of plaintiff after subjecting him to a traffic stop. Id. Regarding the latter claim, the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

A new trial commenced on plaintiff's remaining claim on September 9, 2014. Dkt. #321. On September 6, 2014, the jury returned a verdict in favor of defendant Officer Ochoa, finding that Officer Ochoa did not execute a pat-down search of plaintiff and did not search plaintiff's pockets. Dkt. #332. The jury's verdict is as follows:

QUESTION NO. 1

Do you find by a preponderance of the evidence that Officer Ochoa executed a pat down search of plaintiff?

Yes

No x

If you answered Question No. 1 " No, " please proceed to Question No. 4. If you answered Question No.1 " Yes, " please proceed to Question No. 2.

QUESTION NO. 2

Do you find by a preponderance of the evidence that Officer Ochoa violated plaintiff's Fourth Amendment civil rights by executing a pat down search of plaintiff's person?

Yes

No

If you answered Question No. 2 " Yes, " please proceed to Question No. 3. If you answered Question No. 2 " No, " please proceed to Question No. 4.

QUESTION NO. 3

If you find that Officer Ochoa violated the plaintiff's civil rights when he conducted a pat down search of plaintiff, was the conduct malicious, oppressive, or in reckless disregard of plaintiff's constitutional rights.

Yes

No

QUESTION NO. 4

Do you find by a preponderance of the evidence that Officer Ochoa serached plaintiff's pockets?

Yes

No x

If you answered Question No. 4 " No, " please do not answer the remaining questions and sign and date the verdict form. If you answered Question No. 4 " Yes, " please proceed to Question No. 5.

QUESTION NO. 5

If you answered question No. 4 " Yes, " was that conduct malicious, oppressive, or in reckless disregard of plaintiff's constitutional rights?

Yes

No

If you answered Question Nos. 2 or 4 " Yes, " please proceed to Question No. 6. If you answered Question Nos. 2 and 4 " No, " please do not answer the remaining question and sign and date the verdict form.

QUESTION NO. 6

What is the amount of damages, if any, that plaintiff incurred as a result of defendant's conduct?

Damages: $

Upon the close of evidence in the September 2014 trial, both plaintiff and defendant moved the Court for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a). The Court took the parties' respective motions under submission. As noted, the jury subsequently returned a verdict in favor of Officer Ochoa, rendering his Rule 50(a) motion moot. Rather than hear plaintiff's Rule 50(a) motion immediately following the return of the verdict, the Court granted plaintiff leave to submit written points and authorities in support of his motion.

On September 26, 2014, plaintiff filed briefing in support of his Rule 50(a) motion. Dkt. #335. Defendant filed an opposition on October 21, 2014, dkt. #337, and plaintiff replied on November 5, 2014, dkt. #338. Having considered the parties' arguments, the Court finds and concludes as follows.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate when " a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue . . . ." Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1); see also Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 149, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000). If the court does not grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 50(a), a party may file a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law after the trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b). It is well-settled that the standard for judgment as a matter of law is the same as the standard for summary judgment. Reeves, 530 U.S. at 150 (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-52, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)).

Summary judgment is appropriate where " there is no genuine issue as to any material fact" and " the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party has the initial burden of identifying relevant portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a fact or facts necessary for one or more essential elements of each cause of action upon which the moving party seeks judgment. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

If the moving party has sustained its burden, the nonmoving party must then identify specific facts, drawn from materials on file, that demonstrate that there is a dispute as to material facts on the elements that the moving party has contested. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The nonmoving party must not simply rely on the pleadings and must do more than make " conclusory allegations [in] an affidavit." Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990); see also Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324. Summary judgment must be granted for the moving party if the nonmoving party " fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that ...


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