The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONNER
Following trial of the above-captioned case, the jury returned a verdict for plaintiff. Defendants Anthony M. Mosca ("Mosca"), former Commissioner of Westchester County Department of Public Safety (the "Department" or the "Westchester County Department"); Ernest J. Colaneri ("Colaneri"), present Commissioner of the Department; and the County of Westchester (the "County") have moved for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b), or for a new trial pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 59, or for a remittitur. Plaintiff has applied for an award of attorney's fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. For reasons discussed below, we deny defendants' motion
for judgment as a matter of law. We grant their motion for a new trial, solely on the issue of damages, unless plaintiff accepts a remittitur. Plaintiff's application for attorney's fees and costs is granted as modified below.
Plaintiff, a police officer employed by the County, commenced this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming, inter alia, that defendants discriminated against her because of her gender in violation of her right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff's claims against defendant Mosca can be traced to the time that she was employed as a police officer by the Mount Vernon Police Department prior to joining the Westchester County Department. While plaintiff was a police officer at Mount Vernon, defendant Mosca was appointed Commissioner of that police department. Plaintiff left Mount Vernon in 1984, partly in order to distance herself from Mosca, and accepted employment with the Westchester County Department. Soon thereafter, Mosca became the Commissioner of the Westchester County Department and once again assumed a position of authority over plaintiff. According to plaintiff, the discriminatory practices committed by Mosca began at the time he became Commissioner of the Mount Vernon Police Department in 1981 and ran continuously through his tenure as Commissioner of the Westchester County Department. Mosca has since retired and was succeeded by defendant Colaneri, who presently holds that post. Plaintiff, currently a Lieutenant in the Department, alleged that (1) Mosca discriminated against her continuously from the time that she and Mosca were employed by Mount Vernon through the time that they served in the Westchester County Department, (2) Colaneri discriminated against her based on her gender during the time that she was employed by the County, and (3) the County caused discrimination to be committed against her by having a policy and practice of discrimination based on gender.
Following trial, the jury found for plaintiff, and awarded compensatory damages of $ 216,000 against the County, $ 1 against Colaneri, and $ 50,000 against Mosca, and punitive damages of $ 25,000 against Colaneri and $ 250,000 against Mosca.
On the instant motion, defendants seek three types of relief: judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(b), a new trial under Rule 59, or a remittitur. The court may grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law where "there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue. . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 50. "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) (internal quotations omitted). A judgment as a matter of law is proper if "(1) there is such a complete absence of evidence supporting the verdict that the jury's findings could only have been the result of sheer surmise and conjecture, or (2) there is such an overwhelming amount of evidence in favor of the movant that reasonable and fair minded men could not arrive at a verdict against him." Id. In other words, judgment as a matter of law is reserved for the rare occasions when there is a complete absence of evidence to support the jury's verdict or the evidence is so overwhelming that a reasonable person could only have reached the opposite result. Sorlucco v. New York City Police Dept., 971 F.2d 864, 871 (2d Cir. 1992).
The standard for granting a motion for a new trial is less stringent. Katara v. D.E. Jones Commodities, Inc., 835 F.2d 966, 970 (2d Cir. 1987). "The district court ordinarily should not grant a new trial unless it is convinced that the jury has reached a seriously erroneous result or that the verdict is a miscarriage of justice." Smith v. Lightning Bolt Prods., Inc., 861 F.2d 363, 370 (2d Cir. 1988); see also Sorlucco, 971 F.2d at 875.
Defendants' third alternative request for relief is for a remittitur, which is "the process by which a court compels a plaintiff to choose between reduction of an excessive verdict and a new trial." Earl v. Bouchard Transp. Co., 917 F.2d 1320, 1328 (2d Cir. 1990). On a motion for a remittitur, the standard is "whether the award is so high as to shock the judicial conscience and constitute a denial of justice." Ismail v. Cohen, 899 F.2d 183, 186 (2d Cir. 1990). This standard applies to damage awards, whether compensatory or punitive. Id. If the district court elects to order a remittitur, it "should remit the jury's award only to the maximum amount that would be upheld by the district court as not excessive." Earl, 917 F.2d at 1330.
I. Judgment as a Matter of Law
Defendants seek judgment as a matter of law on the ground that there is no evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could conclude that (1) defendants violated plaintiff's right to equal protection, (2) plaintiff suffered any compensable injury, or (3) defendants Mosca and Colaneri acted with sufficient recklessness to warrant an award of punitive damages.
Judgment as a matter of law is not warranted on the issue of liability because there is evidence to support the jury's finding that defendants violated plaintiff's constitutional right to equal protection. The evidence adduced at trial indicated that Mosca held a certain animus towards women in the police force. For example, plaintiff testified that he called her a "f cking c t," that he stated he was not "afraid of this women liberation s t, or liberation bulls t," and that he commented that he "never really believed in women being cops or women being in police work." Tr. 1428-1429. Plaintiff further testified that, during the seven years she served on the Mount Vernon Police Department, she was never taken off walking posts and placed in car posts for permanent assignments, even though male officers junior to her had been taken off walking ...