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Federico v. Lincoln Military Housing, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

August 23, 2016

SHELLEY FEDERICO, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MID-ATLANTIC MILITARY FAMILY COMMUNITIES, LLC, et al., Defendants. Member Nos. 2:12cv596, 2:14cvl78

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Raymond A. Jacfcson Judge

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for a New Trial and Renewed Motion for Judgment as to Liability, or In the Alternative, for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 50(b) and 59. ECF No. 994. Having reviewed the Parties' pleadings, the Court finds this matter ripe for judicial disposition. A hearing will not aid in the decisional process. For the reasons discussed below, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion for a New Trial and Renewed Motion for Judgment as to Liability, or In the Alternative, for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A civil jury trial for this matter began on March 29, 2016. On April 14, 2016, after a twelve day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Defendants on the breach of contract claim and against Defendant Mid-Atlantic Military Family Communities, LLC on the negligence per se claim. The jury awarded Plaintiff Joe Federico $200, 000 and Plaintiff Shelley Federico $150, 000 dollars for the negligence per se claim.

         Judgment was entered on April 19, 2016. ECF No. 983. Plaintiffs then timely filed the instant motion on May 17, 2016. ECF No. 994. Defendants filed their Response in Opposition on June 3, 2016. ECF No. 1004.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Motion for a New Trial

         Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides the district court with discretion to grant a new trial on all or some of the issues previously tried. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1). On motion, the court may grant a new trial "after a jury 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). A motion pursuant to Rule 59 is considered timely filed only if filed no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(b). A "decision on a motion for a new trial rests within the sound discretion of the trial court." City of Richmond v. Atlantic Co., 273 F.2d 902, 916 (4th Cir. 1960).

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ("Fourth Circuit") requires that a district court grant a new trial pursuant to Rule 59 only if "(1) the verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence, or (2) is based upon evidence which is false, or (3) will result in a miscarriage of justice, even though there may be substantial evidence which would prevent the direction of a verdict." Cline v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 294, 301 (4th Cir. 1998) (quoting Atlas FoodSys. & Servs., Inc. v. Crane Nat'l Vendors, Inc., 99 F.3d 587, 594 (4th Cir. 1996)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Prongs one and two require the court to make factual determinations. Fairshter v. American Nat'l Red Cross, 322 F.Supp.2d 646, 650 (E.D. Va. 2004) (citing Atlas FoodSys. Servs., Inc., 99 F.3d at 594). The final prong "requires a policy analysis under which the 'judge's unique vantage point and day-to-day experience with such matters lend expertise.'" Id., (quoting Atlas FoodSys. Servs., Inc., 99 F.3d at 594).

         Unlike a court ruling on a Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law, a court faced with a motion for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59, "may make credibility judgments in determining the clear weight of the evidence." Lovell v. BBNT Solutions, LLC, 295 F.Supp.2d 611, 618 (E.D. Va. 2003) (citing Knussman v. Maryland, 272 F.3d 625, 647 (4th Cir. 2001)). On review, "[a] district court's denial of a motion for a new trial is reviewed for abuse of discretion[] and will not be reversed 'save in the most exceptional circumstances.'" Minter v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 762 F.3d 339, 346 (4th Cir. 2014) (quoting FDIC v. Bakkebo, 506 F.3d 286, 294 (4th Cir. 2007)).

         B. Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law and Alternative Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict

         Pursuant to Rule 50(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law 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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1). Where the Court finds judgment as a matter of law appropriate, the Court may resolve the issue against the party and "grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against the party on a claim or defense that, under controlling law, can be maintained or defeated only with a favorable finding on that issue." Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1)(B). The motion "may be made at any time before or after the case is submitted to the jury ... [and] must specify the judgment sought and the law and facts that entitle the movant to the judgment." Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(2). Where the court does not grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law during trial, the movant may, within 28 days after the entry of judgment-or if the motion addresses a jury issue not decided by verdict, no later than 28 days after the jury was discharged-file a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b). The movant may also include an alternative or joint request for a new trial under Rule 59. Id.

         When considering the motion for judgment as a matter of law, the court reviews the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Fontenot v. Taser Int'l, Inc., 736 F.3d 318, 332 (4th Cir. 2013); Chaudhry v. Gallerizzo, 174 F.3d 394, 404-05 (4th Cir. 1999). Further, "Judgment as a matter of law is proper when, without weighing the credibility of the evidence, there can be but one reasonable conclusion as to the proper judgment." Chaudhry, 174 F.3d at 405 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Price v. City of Charlotte, 93 F.3d 1241, 1249 (4th Cir. 1996)). "The movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law if the nonmoving party failed to make a showing on an essential element of his case with respect to which he had the burden of proof." Singer v. Dungan, 45 F.3d 823, 827 (4th Cir. 1995) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Bryan v. James E. Holmes Regional Medical Ctr., 33 F.3d 1318, 1333 (11th Cir. 1994)).

         On a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, the essential question before the court becomes whether substantial evidence supports the jury's findings. Konkel v. Bob Evans Farms, Inc., 165 F.3d 275, 279 (4th Cir. 1999). In deciding whether a party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law the Court must not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations and must draw all inferences in favor of the non-movant. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prod. Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); Murdaugh Volkswagen, Inc., v. First Nat'l Bank, 801 F.2d 719, 725 (4th Cir. 1986). If "the evidence as a whole is susceptible of more than one reasonable inference, a jury issue is created and a motion for judgment as a matter of law should be denied." Fontenot v. Taser Int'l, Inc., 736 F.3d 318, 332 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Myrick v. Prime Ins. Syndicate, Inc., 395 F.3d 485, 489-90 (4th Cir. 2005)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. ...


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