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Veerman v. Deep Blue Group L.L.C.

November 3, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorablel Arrya Lanb Urns United States District Judge


On June 16, 2010, the jury awarded Plaintiffs a total of $52,000. The parties have filed multiple post-trial motions. Plaintiffs moved to correct the judgment (Docket number 92); for entry of judgment (Docket number 78); and for an award of attorney's fees, costs, and pre-judgment interest (Docket number 73). Plaintiffs also filed a motion pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 60 asking the Court to extend liability to Defendant Deep Blue Group. Defendants moved pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50 and 59 for an order rejecting certain claims and reducing certain awards, but then withdrew that motion. They also filed a Rule 50 motion arguing certain awards should be set aside (Docket number 68). Defendants also opposed the motion for attorney's fees. The motions are supported by voluminous declarations, citations to the record, and briefing. The Court will afford Plaintiffs an opportunity to file a reply brief to Defendants' opposition to their motion for attorney's fees, but finds the remaining motions suitable for decision without oral argument.

Motion to Correct Judgment (Docket No. 92)

Plaintiffs point out the judgment, as entered in the docket, does not reflect the verdict. Accordingly, they have moved to correct the judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 60. Defendants do not oppose this motion. Rule 60 permits a court to "correct a clerical mistake or a mistake arising from oversight or omission whenever one is found in a judgment, order, or other part of the record," and this is the case here.

The judgment entered after trial contains several errors. Specifically, the first paragraph should enter judgment in favor of plaintiff Veerman (not both Plaintiffs) against defendant Lesort (not Defendants Opia and Deep Blue) for $10,000 in compensatory damages and $10,000 in punitive damages. Next, a $5,000 punitive damages award in favor of plaintiff Ba against defendant Blech is correctly noted in the second paragraph, but the third paragraph fails to reflect this award, and therefore requires correction. Finally, the $3,000 in lost wages awarded to plaintiff Ba should state that the judgment is against all three Defendants who are "jointly and severally liable."

This motion is GRANTED. Plaintiffs' counsel shall submit a revised proposed judgment with copy to Defendants' counsel. The clerk shall forward this proposed judgment to chambers for approval, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 58(b)(2)(B).

Plaintiffs' Motion for Entry of Judgment (Docket No. 78)

This motion points out inconsistencies in the verdict, and the jury's apparent failure to make certain findings as instructed. It doesn't seek an additional award of damages, but only asks that Opia also be held jointly and severally liable to pay an additional $15,000 of the award. Apparently Plaintiffs filed this motion so they could collect damages on their harassment claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, under which only employers (not individuals) may be held liable.

Under the instructions, the jury was directed that if it found either of Opia's principals violated Plaintiffs' rights, Opia should be held liable as well. Although the jury found each of the Defendants liable under some theory, it didn't find Opia liable as instructed. The motion is brought under Fed. R. Civ. P. 49(b), which deals with general verdict forms that also include questions of fact for the jury. Defendants correctly point out the motion is not properly brought under Rule 49, and also that Plaintiffs waived relief under Rule 49(b)(3) and (4) by failing to object before the jury was excused.

Plaintiffs could have brought a motion under a different rule to obtain the relief they seek, and likely would have been successful because of the jury's error in failing to follow the Court's instructions. But there is no need to do so at this point, because Defendants Lesort and Blech are individually liable for these damages, as discussed below.

This motion is therefore DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

Defendants' Motion to Amend the Judgment (Docket No. 68)

Defendants move pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b) and 59 to vacate certain awards as unsupported by law or evidence, and awards of punitive damages as excessive. Plaintiffs point out a Rule 50(b) motion, a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, can only properly be advanced on bases included in an earlier motion for judgment as a matter of law. See Kirsch v. Fleet Street Ltd., 148 F.3d 149, 164 (2d Cir. 1998) (holding that a motion for judgment as a matter of law "may be renewed only on grounds that were specifically articulated before submission of the case to the jury") (citations omitted). The Court has reviewed the transcript, and agrees that, to the extent Defendants now argue the evidence was insufficient to support a verdict for Plaintiffs, they have waived this argument.

Defendants did, however, preserve their argument that punitive damages weren't authorized at all. Likewise, their request to reduce the punitive damages awards is a Rule 59(e) ...

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