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Wang v. Yum! Brands

February 14, 2008

YIN WANG AND YAP SHING CHAN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
YUM! BRANDS, INC., AND KFC RESTAURANT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph F. Bianco, District Judge

Memorandum and Order

Plaintiffs Yin Wang ("Wang") and her husband, Yap Shing Chan ("Chan") (collectively, "plaintiffs"), bring this negligence action against defendants Yum! Brands, Inc., and KFC U.S. Properties, Inc. (collectively, "defendants"), seeking to recover damages for injuries allegedly arising from Wang's slip and fall in a restaurant owned by defendants.

Trial commenced on January 7, 2008 and a mistrial was declared on January 14, 2008 because the jury was unable to reach a verdict. Defendants have renewed their motion, pursuant to Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for judgment as a matter of law in their favor because plaintiffs failed to present sufficient medical evidence of causation or injury to support an award in their favor. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Plaintiffs filed the complaint in this action on March 1, 2005, in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Queens County. Defendants removed the case to this Court on diversity grounds on April 8, 2005. The case was reassigned to the undersigned on February 10, 2006. Following the completion of discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. On May 22, 2007, the Court denied defendants' motion as to plaintiffs' negligence and loss of consortium claims, but granted defendants' motion on the issue of lost wages, and precluded plaintiffs from offering evidence on the issue of Wang's lost wages. Plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment was denied in its entirety.

B. The Trial

The trial commenced on January 7, 2008. During plaintiffs' case, Wang testified regarding the circumstances surrounding her fall in the KFC on October 15, 2004 and the injuries she sustained. Chan, who is Wang's spouse, testified to the facts related to his loss of consortium claim. Plaintiffs also called an expert, Vijaykumar Kulkarni, M.D., FACS ("Dr. Kulkarni"), to testify regarding causation and the extent of Wang's injuries. At the conclusion of plaintiffs' case, defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Pursuant to Rule 50(b), the Court stated that it was reserving decision on the legal questions raised by the motion and was submitting the claims to the jury. Defendants presented three witnesses - namely, two KFC employees who were present in the store that day and a medical expert to rebut the testimony of plaintiffs' expert. On January 14, 2008, after the jury reported for the second time that it was unable to reach a verdict, the Court declared a mistrial. On January 23, 2008, defendants submitted a letter renewing their motion for judgment as a matter of law. On February 4, 2008, plaintiffs filed their opposition. The Court has fully considered the submissions of both parties.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The standard governing motions for judgment as a matter of law (formerly described as motions for directed verdict) pursuant to Rule 50 is well-settled.*fn1 Judgment as a matter of law may not properly be granted under Rule 50 against a party "unless the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, is insufficient to permit a reasonable juror to find in his favor." Arlio v. Lively, 474 F.3d 46, 51 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing Galdieri-Ambrosini v. Nat'l Realty & Dev. Corp., 136 F.3d 276, 289 (2d Cir. 1998)). In deciding such a motion, 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." Meloff v. N.Y. Life Ins. Co., 240 F.3d 138, 145 (2d Cir. 2001) (quoting Galdieri-Ambrosini, 136 F.3d at 289). Thus, judgment as a matter of law should not be granted unless

(1) [T]here 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) [T]here is such an overwhelming amount of evidence in favor of the movant that reasonable and fair minded [persons] could not arrive at a verdict against [it].

Advance Pharm., Inc. v. United States, 391 F.3d 377, 390 (2d Cir. 2004) (quoting Galdieri-Ambrosini, 136 F.3d at ...


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