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Snyder v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, Second Circuit

July 29, 2013

RICHARD SNYDER, Plaintiff,
v.
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. as successor to WACHOVIA BANK, N.A., Defendant.

Brian Kennedy, Esq., New York, NY, for Plaintiff.

Michael P. Manning, Esq., Greenberg Traurig, LLP, New York, NY, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Richard Snyder brought suit against Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., as successor in interest to Wachovia Bank, N.A. ("Wachovia") for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. After an eight-day trial, the jury found that Wachovia breached its contract with Snyder on September 9, 2008 and awarded damages comprised of the monthly transaction fees charged by Wachovia for its managment of Snyder's account totalling $7, 437.71.[1] The jury found that Wachovia breached its fiduciary duty to Snyder as of September 27, 2008, and that Wachovia's fiduciary obligation to Snyder ended on October 6, 2008, and awarded damages of $724, 999.20.[2] In an Order dated April 17, 2013 (the "JMOL"), I granted Wachovia's motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b) for judgment as a matter of law setting aside the jury's verdict on Snyder's breach of fiduciary duty claim.[3] Snyder now moves for a new trial on the fiduciary duty claim and on the issue of damages only on the breach of contract claim.[4]

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a), "court may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the issues... after a jury trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court."[5] A motion for a new trial may be made in lieu of or as an alternative to a motion for judgment as a matter of law, and the test is less stringent than for granting judgment as a matter of law.[6] In addition, when a court grants judgment as a matter of law following a jury verdict, the losing party may move for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59 within twenty-eight days of entry of judgment as a matter of law.[7] "A motion for a new trial should be granted when, in the opinion of the district court, the jury has reached a seriously erroneous result or the verdict is a miscarriage of justice."[8]

A court may order a new trial on some, but not all issues in a case, and "[t]he most common example of a partial new trial is a new trial limited to damages when liability has been properly determined."[9] A district court may grant a new trial limited to damages where the verdict was inadequate.[10]

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claim

Having already found that the jury verdict on the fiduciary duty claim warranted judgment as a matter of law, there is no question that the verdict met the lesser standard for a new trial. The JMOL was not a judgment that Snyder could not prove liability for breach of fiduciary duty as a matter of law, or based on the facts set forth at trial. Rather, I held that:

In sum, there is no evidence that Wachovia breached a fiduciary duty independent of its duties under the contract on the day Snyder directed BoNY to prepare to receive the accounts or at any point afterward. Thus, the jury's determination that Wachovia breached its fiduciary duty to Snyder on September 27, 2008, is without evidentiary support and appears to have been the basis of conjecture or confusion rather than any theory of the case put forth by plaintiff.[11]

The JMOL held that the date that the jury selected for the breach of fiduciary duty was unsupported by the evidence. It did not conclude that the jury could not have reached any reasoned finding of liability. ...


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