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CROWLEY v. BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS OF SOUTHAMPTON

January 7, 1995

MARSHALL O. CROWLEY, Plaintiff, against BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS OF THE INCORPORATED VILLAGE OF SOUTHAMPTON, ELISE KORMAN, as ZBA member and individually, and HAROLD STEUDTE, as former ZBA member and individually, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: ARTHUR D. SPATT

 SPATT, District Judge:

 At the conclusion of the both the plaintiff's case and the entire case, the defendants made a variety of motions on the record for judgment as a matter of law, as to which the Court reserved decision. On January 4, 1995 the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants. The jury unanimously determined that the plaintiff Marshall Crowley ("Crowley") did not prove that the Board of Zoning Appeals of the Village of Southampton ("ZBA") singled out the plaintiff for selective treatment with regard to his application for retail use of his property, as compared with other property owners or businesses similarly situated.

 Accordingly, to complete the record, and except for the following two motions which the Court will now discuss, the remaining motions by the defendants are denied. Familiarity with the facts of this case is presumed. The defendants remaining in the case prior to the jury's deliberation are (1) The ZBA, (2) Elise Korman, and (3) Harold Steudte.

 Motion for a Judgment as a Matter of Law.

 A motion for a judgment as a matter of law is governed by Rule 50(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which states, in relevant part, that:

 
if during a trial by jury a party has been fully heard with respect to an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to have found for that party with respect to that issue, the court may grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against that party on any claim . . . that cannot under the controlling law be maintained without a favorable finding on that issue.

 Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a)(1). In explaining this standard, the Second Circuit has recently reiterated that:

 
the district court may grant the motion only when, viewing the evidence most favorably to the party other than the movant, there can be but one conclusion as to the verdict that reasonable men could have reached. The nonmovant must be given the benefit of all reasonable inferences, because the trial court cannot assess the weight of the conflicting evidence, pass on the credibility of witnesses, or substitute its judgment for that of the jury.

 Weldy v. Piedmont Airlines, Inc., 985 F.2d 57, 59-60 (2d Cir. 1993) (citations and internal quotations omitted); see also Kreppein v. Celotex Corp., 969 F.2d 1424, 1426 (2d Cir. 1992); Michelman v. Clark-Schwebel Fiber Glass Corp., 534 F.2d 1036, 1042 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 885, 50 L. Ed. 2d 166, 97 S. Ct. 236 (1976).

 This Court is also mindful that "the jury's role as the finder of fact does not entitle it to return a verdict based only on confusion, speculation or prejudice; its verdict must be reasonably based on evidence presented at trial." Michelman, 534 F.2d at 1042). When there is a complete absence of evidence to support any finding by the jury in favor of the plaintiffs, then the Court must grant a judgment as a matter of law at the conclusion of the plaintiff's case since there is no issue of fact to submit for the jury's determination. Weldy, 985 F.2d at 59-60). See also Concerned Area Residents For The Environment v. Southview Farm, 34 F.3d 114 (2d Cir. 1994).

 It is based upon these legal standards that the Court examines the defendants' motions for judgment as a matter of law.

 
1. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Evidence of a Malicious or Bad Faith Intent to Injure the Plaintiff.

 The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint in its entirety as against all the defendants on the ground that the plaintiff failed to present any evidence regarding the required element of a malicious or bad faith intent on the part of the defendants to injure the plaintiff. According to the defendants, no reasonable jury could conclude on the evidence submitted that the defendants acted with any malicious or bad faith intent ...


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