United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER DENYING THE PARTIES' POST-TRIAL MOTIONS
(DOC. NOS. 146, 148, 150, 152)
matter is before the court on multiple post-trial motions
filed by plaintiff John Baker and defendant Cottrell, Inc.
(Doc. Nos. 146, 148, 150, 152.) On February 5, 2019, those
motions came before the court for hearing. Attorneys Brian
Wendler and Michael Stone-Molloy appeared on behalf of
plaintiff, and attorney Amy Lorenz-Moser appeared on behalf
of defendant. Having considered the parties' briefing,
the court will deny the motions.
facts of this case have been laid out in prior orders of this
court and will be repeated here only as relevant.
Plaintiff's complaint alleged that he was injured after
falling from a ladder on June 18, 2014, which he claimed was
defectively designed and had worn feet. (Doc. No. 1
(“Compl.”) at ¶¶ 11, 14.) The complaint
sought damages on theories of strict liability, negligence,
and breach of express and/or implied warranty. (Id.
at ¶ 14.)
case proceeded to trial on September 25, 2018, and on
September 28, 2018, the jury returned its verdict, finding
defendant liable on a theory of negligence. (Doc. No. 132.)
The jury found that plaintiff and defendant were each 50% at
fault for the injuries suffered by plaintiff and that
plaintiff sustained $100, 000.00 in economic damages, plus an
additional $175, 000.00 in noneconomic damages.
(Id.) Judgment was entered that same day. (Doc. No.
133.) On October 26, 2018, the parties cross-moved for
judgment as a matter of law, or alternatively for a new
trial. (Doc. Nos. 146, 150.) Plaintiff moved for the
imposition of sanctions (Doc. No. 152), and defendant moved
for relief from judgment under Rule 60. (Doc. Nos. 148.)
Judgment as a Matter of Law
50(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides as
If 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, the court may: (A) resolve the issue
against the party; and (B) grant a motion for judgment as a
matter of law against the party on a claim or defense that,
under the controlling law, can be maintained or defeated only
with a favorable finding on that issue.
Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b) governs renewed motions for
judgment as a matter of law made (“JMOL”) under
Rule 50(a) and provides that the court may: “(1) allow
judgment on the verdict, if the jury returned a verdict; (2)
order a new trial; or (3) direct the entry of judgment as a
matter of law.” The Ninth Circuit has held:
A Rule 50(b) motion for judgment as a matter of law is not a
freestanding motion. Rather, it is a renewed Rule 50(a)
motion. Under Rule 50, a party must make a Rule 50(a) motion
for judgment as a matter of law before a case is submitted to
the jury. If the judge denies or defers ruling on the motion,
and if the jury then returns a verdict against the moving
party, the party may renew its motion under Rule 50(b).
Because it is a renewed motion, a proper post-verdict Rule
50(b) motion is limited to the grounds asserted in the
pre-deliberation Rule 50(a) motion. Thus, a party cannot
properly “raise arguments in its post-trial motion for
judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(b) that it did not
raise in its preverdict Rule 50(a) motion.” Freund
v. Nycomed Amersham, 347 F.3d 752, 761 (9th Cir. 2003)
(citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 50 advisory committee's notes to the
1991 amendments (“A post trial motion for judgment can
be granted only on grounds advanced in the preverdict
motion.”)); Murphy v. City of Long Beach, 914
F.2d 183, 186 (9th Cir. 1990) (“[Judgment
notwithstanding the verdict] is improper if based upon
grounds not alleged in a directed verdict [motion].”
(brackets in original)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 50
advisory committee's notes to the 2006 amendments
(“Because the Rule 50(b) motion is only a renewal of
the preverdict motion, it can be granted only on grounds
advanced in the preverdict motion.”). However, Rule
50(b) “may be satisfied by an ambiguous or inartfully
made motion” under Rule 50(a). Reeves v.
Teuscher, 881 F.2d 1495, 1498 (9th Cir. 1989). Absent
such a liberal interpretation, “the rule is a harsh
one.” Nat'l Indus., Inc. v. Sharon Steel
Corp., 781 F.2d 1545, 1549 (11th Cir. 1986).
EEOC v. Go Daddy Software, Inc., 581 F.3d 951, 961
(9th Cir. 2009).
considering a Rule 50 motion, the court must view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the party in whose
favor the jury returned a verdict and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the non-moving party. First
Nat'l Mortg. Co. v. Fed. Realty Inv. Tr., 631 F.3d
1058, 1067 (9th Cir. 2011); Lakeside-Scott v. Multnomah
County, 556 F.3d 797, 802 (9th Cir. 2009); Josephs
v. Pac. Bell, 443 F.3d 1050, 1062 (9th Cir. 2006);
City Sols., Inc. v. Clear Channel Commc'ns, 365
F.3d 835, 839 (9th Cir. 2004); see also A.D. v. Cal.
Highway Patrol, 712 F.3d 446, 453 (9th Cir. 2013) (in
evaluating a Rule 50 motion the court should “give
significant deference to the jury's verdict and to the
nonmoving parties”). “A district court can set
aside a jury verdict and grant JMOL only if, under governing
law, there can be but one reasonable conclusion as to the
verdict and only if there is no legally sufficient basis for
a reasonable jury to find for that party on that
issue.” Jules Jordan Video, Inc. v. 144942 Can.
Inc., 617 F.3d 1146, 1155 (9th Cir. 2010) (internal
citation and quotation omitted). See also A.D., 712
F.3d at 453 (“Such a judgment is proper if the
evidence, construed in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party, permits only one reasonable conclusion, and
that conclusion is contrary to the jury's
verdict.”) (quoting Pavao v. Pagay, 307 F.3d
915, 918 (9th Cir. 2002)); First Nat'l Mortg.
Co., 631 F.3d at 1067-68 (the court “must
disregard evidence favorable to the moving party that the
jury is not required to believe, and may not substitute its
view of the evidence for that of the jury”);
Lakeside-Scott, 556 F.3d at 802 (“Judgment as
a matter of law is proper when the evidence permits only one
reasonable conclusion and the conclusion is contrary to that
reached by the jury.”) (quoting Ostad v. Or. Health
Scis. Univ., 327 F.3d 876, 881 (9th Cir. 2003)).
also provides that if the court does not grant a motion for
JMOL, the movant may make an alternative request for a new
trial pursuant to Rule 59. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b). Rule 59 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[t]he
court may, on motion, grant a new trial . . . for any reason
for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an
action at law in federal court.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
59(a)(1)(A). Rather than specify the grounds on which a
motion for a new trial may be granted, Rule 59 states that
courts are bound by historically recognized grounds
including, but not limited to, claims “that the verdict
is against the weight of the evidence, that the damages are
excessive, or that, for other reasons, the trial was not fair
to the party moving.” Molksi v. M.J. Cable,
Inc., 481 F.3d 724, 729 (9th Cir. 2007); see also
Shimko v. Guenther, 505 F.3d 987, 992 (9th Cir. 2007)
(“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.”) (citations omitted). The
district court may correct manifest errors of law or fact,
but the burden of showing that harmful error exists falls on
the party seeking the new trial. Malhoit v. S. Cal.
Retail Clerks Union, 735 F.2d 1133 (9th Cir. 1984);
see also 11 Wright, Miller & Kane, Federal
Practice and Procedure: Civil 2d § 2803 (1995).
party claims that a verdict is against the clear weight of
the evidence, the court should give full respect to the
jury's findings and only grant a new trial if it
“is left with the definite and firm conviction that a
mistake has been committed” by the jury. Landes
Constr. Co. v. Royal Bank of Can., 833 F.2d 1365,
1371-72 (9th Cir. 1987). “While the trial court may
weigh the evidence and credibility of the witnesses, the
court is not justified in granting a new trial merely because
it might have come to a different result from that reached by
the jury.” Roy v. Volkswagen of Am. Inc., 896
F.2d 1174, 1176 (9th Cir. 1990), amended on denial of
reh'g, 920 F.2d 618 (9th Cir. 1990); see also
Silver Sage Partners, Ltd. v. City of Desert Hot
Springs, 251 F.3d 814, 819 (9th Cir. 2001) (“[A]
district court may not grant a new trial simply because it
would have arrived at a different verdict.”).
Motion for Sanctions
possess the inherent power “to sanction a litigant for
bad-faith conduct.” Chambers v. NASCO, Inc.,
501 U.S. 32, 35 (1991). But inherent powers must be exercised
with “restraint and discretion” and with the aim
of “achiev[ing] the orderly and expeditious disposition
of [a] case[ ].” Id. at 43-44. Generally, to
be deserving of such sanctions, a litigant must have engaged
in “willful disobedience of a court order” or
“acted in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for
oppressive reasons.” Id. at 45-46 (quoting
Alyeska Pipeline Serv. Co. v. Wilderness Soc'y,
421 U.S. 240, 257-59 (1975)). Mere recklessness is not enough
to warrant the imposition of sanctions, and a court must
“specifically find bad faith or conduct tantamount to
bad faith...[or] improper purpose[.]” Fink v.
Gomez, 239 F.3d 989, 994 (9th Cir. 2001).
Motion for ...