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Carrasquillo v. City of Troy

February 8, 2006

ROBERT CARRASQUILLO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF TROY ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe U.S. District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Pending are two motions: plaintiff Robert Carrasquillo moves for a new trial, see FED. R. CIV. P. 59; and defendants the Troy Housing Authority and Rick Mason (collectively, "Troy Housing") move for attorney's fees, see 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b).*fn1 For the following reasons, both motions are DENIED.

II. Background

Carrasquillo filed a civil rights action and alleged, inter alia, that Troy Housing, the Troy Police Department and Police Officer Sean Kittle seriously injured him by using excessive force during his arrest.*fn2 See Am. Compl. Dkt. No. 39; see also 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985 and 1988.

After Carrasquillo completed his direct case at trial, the court granted Troy Housing's Rule 50 motion. See Dkt. No. 171 (Minute Entry).

Thereafter, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the remaining defendants. See Dkt. No. 176. Carrasquillo filed a timely motion for a new trial, see Dkt. No. 181, and Troy Housing moved for attorney's fees, see Dkt. No. 184.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Motion for a New Trial

Rule 59(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that "[a] new trial may be granted... for any of the reasons for which new trials have heretofore been granted in actions at law in the courts of the United States." According to the Second Circuit, this standard permits new trials when "in the opinion of the district court, the jury has reached a seriously erroneous result or the verdict is a miscarriage of justice." DLC Management Corp. v. Town of Hyde Park, 163 F.3d 124, 133 (2d Cir.1998) (quotation marks and citation omitted). "A new trial may be granted, therefore, when the jury's verdict is against the weight of the evidence." Id. "Moreover, a trial judge is free to weigh the evidence himself, and need not view it in the light most favorable to the verdict winner. A court considering a Rule 59 motion for a new trial must bear in mind, however, that the court should only grant such a motion when the jury's verdict is egregious." Id. at 134 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). A trial judge's disagreement with the jury's verdict alone is insufficient reason to grant a motion for a new trial. See Saloomey v. Jeppesen & Co., 707 F.2d 671, 679 (2d Cir.1983).

In support of his motion, Carrasquillo argues that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence. See P's Mot. for New Trial & Kehoe Aff.; Dkt. No. 181. He also argues that the weight of his evidence was adversely impacted by an erroneous evidentiary ruling that excluded a video tape of him taken four weeks after the incident. Id.; see also Exhibit T submitted on 8/03/04 in opposition to Def's Mot. for Summ. Judgment; Dkt. No. 71. The court first turns to the evidentiary ruling.

Carrasquillo argues that the authenticity of the videotape was the exclusive basis for the court's ruling. See FED. R. EVID. 901. While the court mentioned authenticity when the videotape was first offered, the record is clear that it suffered from the same exclusionary infirmities as other videotaped depositions he sought to introduce. Thus: (1) the video was not a deposition of Carassquillo, but instead a litigation-prepared, "speaking dissertation" by his lawyer, Kehoe, regarding the merits of the case; (2) there were various, alternative means to establish the foundational bases for Dr. Cohen's testimony, including several that were already in evidence or subject to admission had they been offered; and (3) the prejudicial effect of Kehoe's unsworn, video testimony substantially outweighed any probative value. In other words, the video suffered from the identical defects recited by the court when it denied Carrasquillo's offer regarding other videotaped interviews of several witnesses.

Likewise, the court is not persuaded that the jury's verdict is either egregious or constitutes a miscarriage of justice. There is no doubt that Carrasquillo suffered serious injuries resulting from some degree of force employed by Kittle or someone else at the time of arrest. There is also no doubt that Carrasquillo fled when arrested, and some degree of force was justified to terminate his flight. Precisely who employed the force, the extent of the force, and whether the force was excessive, were all factual issues squarely presented to the jury, and resolved by them. Despite Carrasquillo's argument that his use of force expert, ...


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