The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEISURE
This civil rights action, brought by plaintiff, Edward 25X King ("King"),
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, was tried to a jury on May 12-15, 1992. Defendants Michael Macri ("Macri") and Edward Kondek ("Kondek") now move the Court, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b) and 59(a), for judgment as a matter of law, a new trial or a remittitur of the damages award. For the following reasons, the motion is denied.
On June 20, 1983, plaintiff was arrested in the New York Criminal Courthouse, located at 100 Centre Street, in New York City ("Criminal Court"), after allegedly making an obscene gesture at Macri, who was employed as a Court Officer in the Criminal Court, in Courtroom All Purpose 1 ("AP 1"). After allegedly making the obscene gesture, King left the courtroom, and was followed out of AP 1 by Macri. Almost immediately thereafter, a scuffle ensued, involving King, Macri and two other Court Officers: Kondek, who had been working with Macri in AP 1, and Rudolf Marrero ("Marrero"), who had been working across the hall, in Courtroom All Purpose 7 ("AP 7"). As a result of this incident, King was arrested; charged with obstructing governmental administration, assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest; and incarcerated until his trial in August 1983. Before King's criminal trial, the charge of obstructing governmental administration was dropped. Thereafter, at his criminal trial in August 1983, the assault charge was dismissed by the court and King was acquitted of the remaining charges by the jury.
In September 1983, King filed the instant suit, claiming that Macri, Kondek, Marrero and Ann Tyler ("Tyler") had violated his federal civil rights, by, inter alia, using excessive force during the arrest, arresting him without probable cause, and subjecting him to malicious prosecution. By Opinion and Order dated February 23, 1990, this Court dismissed plaintiff's second cause of action, which asserted claims against Tyler based on her role as King's parole officer. Thereafter, at the close of defendant's case, on May 14, 1992, the Court granted a directed verdict, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a), on the false arrest claims asserted by plaintiff against Kondek and Marrero. Trial Transcript ("Tr."), at 332-37. Accordingly, on May 15, 1992, the Court submitted the remaining claims, of excessive force against Macri, Kondek and Marrero, and of false arrest and malicious prosecution against Macri alone, to the jury.
After deliberating for approximately four hours, the jury returned its verdict, finding liability against Macri on the excessive force, arrest without probable cause and malicious prosecution claims; finding liability against Kondek on the excessive force claim; and finding no liability against Marrero. On the excessive force claim, the jury awarded no compensatory damages, but awarded punitive damages of $ 50,000 against Macri and $ 75,000 against Kondek. Similarly, on the claim of arrest without probable cause, the jury awarded no compensatory damages, but awarded $ 50,000 punitive damages against Macri. Finally, on the malicious prosecution claim, the jury awarded $ 75,000 compensatory and $ 75,000 punitive damages against Macri.
In response to the jury's verdict, defendants now move for judgment as a matter of law, for a new trial or for a remittitur of the damages award. These motions are based on defendants' claims that there is insufficient evidence to support the jury's findings of liability against Macri and Kondek; that punitive damages cannot be awarded without a showing of actual injury or damages; that the jury's awards of compensatory and punitive damages are excessive; that the punitive damages awards do not bear any relationship to the financial conditions of the defendants; that the jury's verdict was the result of emotion and passion; and that defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.
A. Applicable Legal Standards
On the instant motion, defendants seek three types of relief: judgment as a matter of law under Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b),
a new trial pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(a), or a remittitur.
The standard for granting a motion for judgment [as a matter of law] pursuant to Rule 50(b) is whether "'the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movants without considering credibility or weight, reasonably permits only a conclusion in the movants' favor.'"
Jund v. Town of Hempstead, 941 F.2d 1271, 1290 (2d Cir. 1991) (quoting Pena v. Brattleboro Retreat, 702 F.2d 322, 323 (2d Cir. 1983) (citation omitted)).
Judgment [as a matter of law] is reserved for those rare occasions when there is "such a complete absence of evidence supporting the verdict that the jury's finding could only have been the result of sheer surmise and conjecture" or the evidence must be so overwhelming that ...