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Prado v. Federal Express Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

January 28, 2015

JOSE A. PRADO, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDERAL EXPRESS CORPORATION, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL (Re: Docket No. 221)

PAUL S. GREWAL, Magistrate Judge.

Following a jury verdict in favor of Defendant Federal Express Corporation, Plaintiff Jose Prado seeks a new trial based on purported inconsistencies in the verdict form, errors of law as to jury instructions and jury findings that are against the weight of the evidence. Because the court can find no material error or inconsistency that warrants granting Prado a new trial, the motion is DENIED.

I.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a), "[t]he court may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the issues-and to any party... after a jury trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court."[1] "The trial court may grant a new trial only if the verdict is contrary to the clear weight of the evidence, is based upon false or perjurious evidence, or to prevent a miscarriage of justice."[2] In determining whether the verdict form was properly presented to the jury, it must be considered in conjunction with the associated jury instructions.[3]

Prado was an employee of FedEx from December 17, 1997 until his termination on April 14, 2010. His termination followed a series of medical issues associated with a stroke in 2001 and another in 2009. After his first stroke, Prado returned to work after a number of months and performed a wide range of tasks from copying to operating machinery. After his second stroke, Prado returned to work with medical restrictions that severely limited the type of work he could do. Soon after, Prado was terminated for an inability to find work that fit within his medical limitation.

Prado filed two complaints with the EEOC: the first was during his employment on January 13, 2009, and the second was just after his termination on May 20, 2010. He then brought this suit a little more than two years later.

After the court granted FedEx's motion for summary judgment only in part, [4] a nine-person jury heard the case over two weeks in September -. The jury found that FedEx was not liable for any of Prado's seven claims: (1) failure to provide reasonable accommodation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act; (2) disability discrimination in violation of the ADA; (3) failure to provide reasonable accommodation in violation of the California Fair Employment & Housing Act; (4) failure to engage in the interactive process in violation of FEHA; (5) disability discrimination in violation of FEHA; (6) failure to prevent discrimination in violation of FEHA; and (7) discrimination in violation of public policy.

Prado now moves for new trial, arguing that: portions of the jury's verdict are against clear weight of the evidence, portions of the verdict are inconsistent, there were errors of law during the trial and there was witness misconduct.

II.

This court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331. This court has supplemental jurisdiction over the pendant state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. The parties further consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned magistrate judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a).

III.

Prado's various challenges raise ten separate grounds for a new trial. None is persuasive.

First at issue is whether the jury's verdict properly addresses the undisputed fact that, before his second stroke, Prado was able to perform the essential functions of part-time handler without accommodation. The parties concur that Prado was capable of and had no difficulty performing these duties until he was relieved of some of his more arduous tasks in March 2009. Prado takes issue with the fact that the verdict form does not delineate between the first and second stroke. But the jury was not presented with facts suggesting that his capabilities were disputed before the second stroke; as such it is reasonable to assume that the jury decided that Prado was unable to perform the essential functions with or without accommodation after his second stroke only.

FedEx bolsters this conclusion by pointing out that the jury's determination here is consistent with its findings in other portions of the verdict form. Specifically, the jury found that FedEx indeed "fail[ed] to cooperate in a timely, good-faith interactive process" but that the failure was not "a substantial factor in causing harm to Mr. Prado." This shows that it determined Prado was unable to perform the essential functions with or ...


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