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PHILLIPS v. BOWEN

March 27, 2000

PAMELA J. PHILLIPS, PLAINTIFF,
V.
JAMES BOWEN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS SHERIFF OF THE COUNTY OF SARATOGA, M.T. WOODCOCK, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS CHIEF DEPUTY SHERIFF OF THE COUNTY OF SARATOGA, WILLIAM S. BAKER, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS PERSONNEL DIRECTOR OF SARATOGA COUNTY AND THE COUNTY OF SARATOGA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kahn, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM — DECISION AND ORDER

Presently before this Court is Defendants' renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law. For the reasons set forth below, this motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

A jury returned a verdict for plaintiff on 25 February 1998 and awarded $400,000 in damages. Defendants attempted to move for a renewed judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b), but the Court denied that motion because Defendants failed to provide any support from the record that they to made a Rule 50(a) motion, for a directed verdict. The Court permitted Defendants to refile their motion with the relevant supporting documents, which Defendants did a timely manner.

Plaintiffs motion for attorney fees is also currently pending.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict

1. Standard for J.N.O.V.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b) permits a party to make a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law. The purpose of requiring a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law is to give the opposing party "`an opportunity to cure the defects in proof that might otherwise preclude him [or her] from taking the case to the jury.'" Cruz v. Local Union Number 3 of the Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, 34 F.3d 1148, 1155 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Baskin v. Hawley, 807 F.2d 1120, 1134 (2d Cir. 1986)) (alteration in original). The same standard applicable to a Rule 50(a) motion for judgment as a matter of law governs a Rule 50(b) renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law. See Raspente v. National R.R. Passenger Corp., 111 F.3d 239, 241 n. 3 (2d Cir. 1997). The motion may be granted only if "the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the opposing party, is insufficient to permit a reasonable juror to find in [her] favor." Galdieri-Ambrosini v. National Realty and Dev. Corp., 136 F.3d 276, 289 (2d Cir. 1998); see also Vermont Plastics, Inc. v. Brine, Inc., 79 F.3d 272, 277 (2d Cir. 1996). The Court will only grant the motion if "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 if the evidence is so overwhelming that reasonable and fair-minded persons could only have reached the opposite result." Lambert v. Genesee Hosp., 10 F.3d 46, 53-54 (2d Cir. 1993); see also Galdieri-Ambrosini, 136 F.3d at 289. The Court "must give deference to all credibility determinations and reasonable inferences of the jury, and it may not itself weigh the credibility of witnesses or consider the weight of the evidence." Galdieri-Ambrosini, 136 F.3d at 289 (citing Vasbirider v. Ambach, 926 F.2d 1333, 1339-40 (2d Cir. 1991)).

In order to make that renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, Rule 50(b) requires that a motion for a directed verdict be made at the close of all the evidence. See Hilord Chemical Corp. v. Ricoh Electronics, Inc., 875 F.2d 32, 37 (2d Cir. 1989). And the Second Circuit has been quite clear that this "procedural requirement may not be waived as a mere technicality." See Cruz, 34 F.3d at 1154 (quoting Redd v. City of Phenix City, Ala., 934 F.2d 1211, 1214 (11th Cir. 1991)). Moreover, even when a pre-verdict motion for judgment as a matter of law has been made, the movant may not add new grounds after trial. The post-trial motion is limited to those grounds that were "specifically raised in the prior [Rule 50(a)] motion." Samuels v. Air Transport Local 504, 992 F.2d 12, 14 (2d Cir. 1993); see Cruz, 34 F.3d at 1155; Lambert v. Genesee Hospital, 10 F.3d 46, 53-54 (2d Cir. 1993) ("the specificity requirement is obligatory"), cert. denied, 511 U.S. 1052, 114 S.Ct. 1612, 128 L.Ed.2d 339 (1994); Smith v. Lightning Bolt Productions, Inc., 861 F.2d 363, 368 (2d Cir. 1988). In sum, a post-trial Rule 50(b) motion for judgment as a matter of law can properly be made only if, and to the extent that, such a motion specifying the same grounds was made prior to the submission of the case to the jury.

2. Defendants' Refiled Motion

Defendants' timely refiling of their J.N.O.V. on 15 November 1999 is supported by the required citations to the record. The record shows that their attempts to make a Rule 50(a) motion were postponed by this Court until after the verdict was returned. A meeting was held on 11 March 1999 for the purpose of allowing both parties to make not only post-trial motions, but to record certain pre-verdict motions that were not made during the trial. Thus, this Court will treat Defendants' postponed motions as a waiver, and will proceed to evaluate this motion on the merits.

3. Merits of Defendants' J.N.O.V. Motion

As a preliminary matter, this Court will treat Defendants' refiled Rule 50(b) motion papers as separate from the original motion filed on 30 March 1998, as the refiled motion includes references to, and a ...


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