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RODICK v. CITY OF SCHENECTADY

June 23, 1994

JOHN C. RODICK, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SCHENECTADY; KEVIN COKER; BRIAN CARROLL; ROBERT P. McHUGH; ERIC YAGER and JOHN FALVO, JR., individually and as agents, servants and/or employees and police officers of the City of Schenectady and City of Schenectady Police Department, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS J. MCAVOY

 The plaintiff moves pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) for modification of the jury award of October 21, 1993 in the remand trial on damages for malicious prosecution. Plaintiff seeks: (1) modification of the judgment so as to award the plaintiff prejudgment interest on the lost income award at a rate of 9% per annum calculated from September 15, 1989, an intermediate date pursuant to CPLR § 5001(b), to the date of judgment entry; (2) modification of the judgment to award plaintiff prejudgment interest on the expenses of defending against criminal prosecution at a rate of 9% per annum calculated from April 4, 1990, the date the criminal trial ended, to the date of judgment entry; (3) modification of the judgment to award plaintiff prejudgment interest on the remainder of the compensatory judgment calculated at 9% per annum from March 26, 1992, the date liability was first determined for malicious prosecution, to the date of judgment entry; and (4) modification of the judgment directing that interest on the entire compensatory judgment award for malicious prosecution accrue at 9% per annum from the date judgment was entered until the date paid in full.

 On remand from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on the issue of damages for malicious prosecution liability, the plaintiff was awarded $ 2,838,650, including $ 38,650 for expenses incurred in defending himself during criminal proceedings, $ 300,000 for lost income, and $ 2,000,000 for injury to reputation, inconvenience, anguish, humiliation and loss of liberty. The jury also awarded $ 500,000 for future injury to reputation, inconvenience, anguish and humiliation.

 The defendants seek a judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50, remittitur, or alternatively, a new trial pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59. Defendants assert that the testimony presented at trial does not support the damages award granted by the jury. The court will address these motions seriatim.

 I. Motion Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e)

 A. Prejudgment Interest

 The issue of the appropriateness of awarding prejudgment interest is to be decided on the basis of state law. Mallis v. Bankers Trust Co., 717 F.2d 683, 692 n.13 (2d Cir. 1983). In New York, whether prejudgment interest is recoverable in a particular action is based on CPLR § 5001. CPLR § 5001(a) reads:

 
Interest shall be recovered upon a sum awarded because of a breach of performance of a contract, or because of an act or omission depriving or otherwise interfering with title to, or possession or enjoyment of, property, except that in an action of an equitable nature, interest and the rate and date from which it shall be computed shall be in the court's discretion.

 N.Y. Civ. Prac. L. & R. 5001(a) (McKinney's Supp. 1993). Because this jury verdict was intended as compensatory relief for the malicious prosecution of Mr. Rodick, including his lost income and litigation expenses, and not as compensation for breach of contract or for interference with property, prejudgment interest is not proper under New York law. Furthermore, it is clear that property, as the term is used in CPLR § 5001(a), does not refer to lost wages. In re Brooklyn Navy Yard Asbestos Litig., 971 F.2d 831, 852 (2d Cir. 1992); Gordon v. Board of Educ., 52 Misc. 2d 175, 274 N.Y.S.2d 543, 546 (Sup. Ct. Kings Co. 1966). "The right to interest is purely statutory and in derogation of the common law and it cannot be extended beyond the statutory regulations or limitations." Gordon, 274 N.Y.S.2d at 545. Thus, plaintiff's motion for prejudgment interest on the jury verdict is denied.

 B. Postjudgment Interest

 The appropriateness of postjudgment interest is determined by federal rather than state law. See U.S. Fire Ins. Co. v. Federal Ins. Co., 670 F. Supp. 1191, 1199 (S.D.N.Y. 1987) (noting that the rate of postjudgment interest is set by 28 U.S.C. § 1961); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1961 (stating that "interest shall be allowed on any money judgment in a civil case recovered in a district court"). 28 U.S.C. § 1961(a) sets postjudgment interest at a rate "equal to the coupon issue yield equivalent (as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury) of the average accepted auction price for the last auction of fifty-two week United States Treasury bills settled immediately prior to the date of judgment." 28 U.S.C. § 1961(a). Thus, the court will use this rate to determine the proper interest and not the 9% per annum sought by the plaintiff.

 The plaintiff correctly requests that the postjudgment interest run from the date the judgment was entered. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. v. Bonjorno, 494 U.S. 827, 110 S. Ct. 1570, 1576, 108 L. Ed. 2d 842 (1990). Since the judgment in this case was entered on April 13, 1992, the proper ...


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