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Purcell v. CSX Transportation

June 21, 2010

JASON J. PURCELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Senior Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

On August 17, 2007, after sustaining an injury at work, Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to the Federal Employers Liability Act ("FELA"), alleging that his injuries were caused by Defendant's failure to provide a reasonably safe place to work and through Defendant's negligence. See Complaint at ¶¶ 1-14. The matter was tried before a jury between June 16 and 19, 2009. On June 19, 2009, the jury returned a verdict finding Defendant 32% liable for Plaintiff's broken arm and awarded, before reduction for comparative negligence, $312,500. The jury allocated the damages as follows: (1) lost past wages, $4,895.00; (2) lost future wages, $4,020.00; (3) pain and suffering from the date of the accident to the present, $303,585.00; and (4) future pain and suffering, $0.00. After reduction for comparative negligence, the jury awarded Plaintiff $100,000.

Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Weight of the Evidence

Plaintiff asserts that he is entitled to a new trial on damages because (1) the award of $4,895 for past lost wages is inadequate and against the weight of the evidence; (2) the award of $4,020 for future lost wages is inadequate and against the weight of the evidence; and (3) the jury's failure to award anything for future pain and suffering is inadequate and against the weight of the evidence.

1. Standard of Review

A jury's verdict should "rarely be disturbed," and a new trial is properly granted, pursuant to Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, only if the verdict is so against the weight of the evidence as to constitute a "'seriously erroneous result,'" or '"a miscarriage of justice.'" Farrior v. Waterford Bd. of Educ., 277 F.3d 633, 634 (2d Cir. 2002) (quotation omitted). As the standard implies, a court deciding a Rule 59 motion may weigh the evidence introduced at trial, and additionally, is not required to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the "'verdict winner."' Id. at 635 (quotation omitted); see also DLC Mgmt. Corp. v. Town of Hyde Park, 163 F.3d 124, 134 (2d Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). In weighing the evidence, however, the court "should not ordinarily ignore the jury's role in resolving factual disputes." MacMaster v. City of Rochester, No. 05-CV-6509, 2009 WL 63045, *6 (W.D.N.Y. Jan. 6, 2009) (citation omitted); see also DLC Mgmt. Corp., 163 F.3d at 134.

2. Past Lost Wages

Plaintiff asserts that his accident took place on March 11, 2006, with the initial surgery taking place that same day and the follow-up surgery occurring on September 1, 2006. Plaintiff returned to work in January of 2007. Moreover, Plaintiff concludes that he earned an average of $4,605.27 per month in the twelve (12) months prior to the accident. Finally, Plaintiff claims that Defendant neither argued that he was out of work longer than necessary for his injuries nor did Defendant call a doctor to refute the treatment or recovery process for Plaintiff's injuries. As such, Plaintiff claims that the jury's award of $4,895 for past lost wages was clearly inadequate in light of the uncontroverted testimony showing that Plaintiff was out of work for nearly ten (10) months because of his injuries.

Contrary to Plaintiff's assertions, this award was not clearly inadequate in light of the undisputed testimony. As Defendant correctly points out, Plaintiff was required to prove not only that he suffered lost wages, but also that his injury caused those lost wages. Plaintiff never offered proof that his injury required him to remain absent from work for the full ten-month period. In fact, Plaintiff asserts that the future surgery that Dr. Uhl, Plaintiff's treating physician, recommends he have is "similar" to the surgery he previously underwent, which caused his prolonged absence from work. See Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law at 1. Dr. Uhl testified that Plaintiff would need six-to-eight weeks recovery time after this "similar" surgery before he could return to work. See Transcript of Deposition of Dr. Richard Uhl dated June 9, 2009 ("Uhl Tr."), at 35. Dr. Uhl also stated that Plaintiff would be able to perform desk work or "light activities" at work during the time he recovered from this surgery. See id. at 44-45. Moreover, Plaintiff did not offer any testimony regarding his ability to perform "light activities" or desk work after his initial surgeries. Considering this evidence, or lack thereof, it was perfectly rational for the jury to conclude that Plaintiff did not require the entire ten-month period to recover before he could return to work when it would only take him six-to-eight weeks to recover from a "similar" surgery.

Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that the jury was free to conclude that Plaintiff's injury did not cause all of his past lost wages but, rather, that, although the injury caused some of his lost wages, Plaintiff was, nonetheless, capable of working after an initial recovery period. See, e.g., Litras v. ...


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