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Williams v. Arctic Cat, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

June 10, 2014

BARBARA WILLIAMS and CRAIG WILLIAMS, Her husband,
v.
ARCTIC CAT, INC., ARCTIC CAT, ARCTIC CAT PRODUCTION, LLC, ARCTIC CAT PRODUCTION SUPPORT, LLC, ARCTIC CAT SALES, INC., ARCTIC CAT SHARES SERVICES, LLC, GANDER MOUNTAIN COMPANY, and GANDER DIRECT MARKETING SERVICES, LLC, Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

THOMAS J. McAVOY, Senior District Judge.

Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for a New Trial Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)(1)(A). See dkt. # 317. Defendants have responded to the motion and Plaintiffs have filed a reply brief. For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Barbara and Craig Williams commenced the instant personal injury action against Defendants arising out of Barbara Williams' operation of an Arctic Cat Prowler XT 650 H1 manufactured by Defendant Arctic Cat and sold by Defendant Gander Mountain. Plaintiffs asserted claims for strict products liability, negligence, and breach of warranty. In a Decision and Order issued on September 12, 2012, the Court dismissed Plaintiffs' design defect and breach of warranty claims. See Dkt. 150. The Court found the breach-of-warranty claims against Defendant Arctic Cat time barred. Id . On September 19, 2012, the Court clarified that earlier ruling by confirming that breach-of-warranty claims against Defendant Gander Mountain were dismissed. See Dkt. 153. The Court dismissed these claims on the grounds that the evidence could not support a finding that the vehicle in question was not minimally safe, or that Plaintiff's injuries were caused by the failure to warn. Id.

Defendants filed timely motions for reconsideration, and in responding to those motions Plaintiffs also sought reconsideration of the Court's decisions. See Dkts. 156, 157, 162. On December 6, 2012, the Court issued a Decision and Order that addressed these motions. The Court again denied Defendants' motions for summary judgment in part. See Dkt. 181. The Court also denied Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration on their breach-of-warranty claim. Id . No party filed a motion for reconsideration of that Order.

The Court set a trial date, which was continued several times at the parties' request. Eventually, the parties submitted pre-trial filings and motions in limine. After the Court addressed those motions, the trial occurred on Plaintiffs' one remaining cause of action, for failure to warn of the danger of driving the Prowler on a paved surface. At the end of an eight-day trial, the jury returned a verdict of no cause of action in favor of the Defendants. See dkt. # 309. Plaintiffs thereafter filed the instant motion for a new trial.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

Plaintiffs seek a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)(1)(A). That rule provides that "[t]he court may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the issues... for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court[.]" FED. R. CIV. P. 59(a)(1)(A). "A district court should grant a new trial motion if it is convinced that the jury has reached a seriously erroneous result or that the verdict is a miscarriage of justice.'" United States v. Landau, 155 F.3d 93, 104 (2d Cir. 1998) (quoting Smith v. Lighting Bolt Productions, Inc., 835 F.2d 966, 970 (2d Cir. 1987)). Such a motion may be granted "even if there is substantial evidence to support the jury's verdict." Id . In evaluating a motion for a new trial, the trial judge "is free to weigh the evidence himself and need not view it in the light most favorable to the verdict winner.'" Id . (quoting Bevevino v. Saydjari, 574 F.3d 676, 683 (2d Cir. 1983)). Still, "a trial judge's disagreement with the jury's verdict is not sufficient reason to grant a new trial.'" Lawson v. County of Suffolk, 920 F.Supp.2d 332, 344 (E.D.N.Y. 2013) (quoting Kittay v. Korff (In re Palermo), No. 08cv7421, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99537 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 2, 2011)). Grounds for a new trial generally include: "(1) the verdict is against the weight of the evidence; (2) the trial court was not fair;

(3) substantial errors occurred in the admission or rejection of evidence or the giving or refusal of instructions to the jury; or (4) damages are excessive." Lawson, 920 F.Supp.2d at 339 (citing 12 MOORE'S FEDERAL PRACTICE ยง 59.13[1] at 59-43).

B. Plaintiffs' Motion

Plaintiffs offer a number of reasons for granting their motion for a new trial. The Court will address each in turn. The Court will also divide the subjects of the motion into relevant parts.

i. Pre-Trial Dispositive Rulings

a. Dismissal of Causes of Action/Preclusion of ...


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