United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR NEW
J. DAVILA, United States District Judge
explained in a companion order filed this same date denying
renewed motions for judgment as a matter of law, a jury found
against Plaintiffs Navcom Technology Inc. and Deere &
Company (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) on their
sole claim that Defendant Oki Electric Industry Co., Ltd.
(“Defendant”) breached a written contract for the
development and production of a component known as the
“RF ASIC.” Plaintiffs now move for a new trial
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 (Dkt. No. 343),
which relief Defendant opposes.
jurisdiction arises pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. On
this motion, the court finds, concludes and orders as
new trial is appropriate under Rule 59 “only if the
jury verdict is contrary to the clear weight of the evidence,
is based upon false or perjurious evidence, or to prevent a
miscarriage of justice.” Molski v. M.J. Cable,
Inc., 481 F.3d 724, 729 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Passantino v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Prods.,
212 F.3d 493, 510 n.15 (9th Cir. 2000)). A court may deny a
motion for a new trial so long as there was “some
reasonable basis” for the jury's verdict.
Id. (citations omitted). “Doubts about the
correctness of the verdict are not sufficient grounds for a
new trial: the trial court must have a firm conviction that
the jury has made a mistake.” Landes Constr. Co.,
Inc. v. Royal Bank of Canada, 833 F.2d 1365, 1372 (9th
Cir. 1987). However, “‘the absolute absence of
evidence to support the jury's verdict makes [refusal to
grant a new trial] an error in law.'” Id.
(alteration in original) (quoting Urti v. Transp.
Commercial Corp., 479 F.2d 766, 769 (5th Cir. 1973)).
determining whether a verdict is contrary to the clear weight
of the evidence, “[t]he judge can weigh the evidence
and assess the credibility of witnesses, and need not view
the evidence from the perspective most favorable to the
prevailing party.” Landes Constr. Co., 833
F.2d at 1371. But “a decent respect for the collective
wisdom of the jury, and for the function entrusted to it in
our system, certainly suggests that in most cases the judge
should accept the findings of the jury, regardless of his own
doubts in the matter.” Id. (quoting 11 C.
Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure §
2806, at 48-49 (1973)).
Plaintiffs argue the jury's verdict is contrary to the
clear weight of the evidence, citing many of the same
arguments made in support of their Rule 50(b) motion. These
arguments are no more successful here for the reasons
detailed in the order addressing that motion. Even after
weighing the evidence and assessing the credibility of the
witnesses, the court is not left with a “firm
conviction” the jury was mistaken to find that
Plaintiffs failed to sustain their burden of proof to show
breach of contract. As the court has explained in its ruling
on the renewed motion for partial judgment as a matter of
law, there was at the very least “some reasonable
basis” in the record for the jury to reach the verdict
that it did in this case.
Plaintiffs also argue they were prejudiced by a
“novel” bifurcation of the jury's
consideration of liability from the measure of damages. This
argument appears to have been waived or precluded by the
invited error doctrine since the court is unable to locate an
objection on Plaintiffs' behalf. See Deland v. Old
Republic Life Ins. Co., 758 F.2d 1331, 1336-37 (9th Cir.
1985). In any event, Plaintiffs offer only speculation and
circumstantial statements from other cases and studies to
support their conclusion that the “practical
effect” of the bifurcation in this case was “to
prejudice the jury against Plaintiffs' case.” And
having presided over this action at trial, the undersigned
does not share Plaintiffs' opinion. Notably, the jury
deliberated for at least two hours on the day it received the
case, and deliberated for nearly three more hours the next
day before announcing it had reached a unanimous verdict. The
amount of time the jury spent deliberating - spread over two
days - significantly undercuts any perception the jury was
somehow incentivized by the bifurcation to find against
Plaintiff, avoid further deliberations, and end their service
as soon as possible. Instead, the court perceived the members
of the jury to take their function seriously.
same observation defeats Plaintiffs' claim of prejudicial
misconduct by Defendant's attorney when he suggested the
jury could “go home” if no breach was found,
referenced Section 16.0 of the Agreement, or when he
purportedly made statements about matters not in evidence.
“To grant a new trial because of attorney misconduct,
‘the flavor of the misconduct must [have] sufficiently
permeate[d][the] entire proceeding to provide conviction that
the jury was influenced by passion and prejudice in reaching
its verdict.'” Larez v. City of L.A., 946
F.2d 630, 637 (9th Cir. 1991). The court does not find any
comments or references made by Defendant's counsel
influenced the jury to the extent their duty to deliberate
based on the admitted evidence - as they were correctly
instructed to do - was overcome by “passion and
Plaintiffs final argument is that the jury was improperly
instructed on contraction formation and that the verdict form
inaccurately framed the issues for the jury. The court
recognizes that “erroneous jury instructions, as well
as the failure to give adequate instructions, are also bases
for a new trial.” Murphy v. City of Long
Beach, 914 F.2d 183, 187 (9th Cir. 1990). But here, the
instructions given on contract formation and the elements of
breach of contract are each correct statements of California
law, and the parties did not stipulate that Plaintiff was
excused from proving each element of their claim.
Furthermore, any error on the verdict form is harmless.
Whether asked as one question or three, the result would be
the same: the jury determined that Plaintiff did not sustain
its burden to prove that a breach of contract occurred.
on the foregoing, Plaintiffs' Motion for New Trial (Dkt.
No. 343) is DENIED.