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Jean v. Krauss

United States District Court, W.D. New York

February 2, 2015

GOTFRIED JEAN, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH KRAUSS and CORRECTION OFFICER NATHAN SORRELL, Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

FRANK P. GERACI, Jr., District Judge.

After a week-long trial, the jury in this case determined that Defendant Joseph Krauss ("Krauss"), who was then employed by the State of New York at the Attica Correctional Facility ("Attica"), utilized excessive force by sexually assaulting Plaintiff Gotfried Jean ("Jean") on June 1, 2010, who was incarcerated at Attica. The jury did not make the same finding regarding Defendant Nathan Sorrell ("Sorrell"), a Correction Officer at Attica, and instead found no cause of action for the same allegation against him. The jury awarded Jean $40, 000.00 in compensatory damages and $25, 000.00 in punitive damages, for a total award of $65, 000.00. Dkt #44. Presently before the Court are Krauss' motions for (1) judgment as a matter of law under Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b) or (2) a new trial under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59. Dkt. #49. Also before the Court are (1) a Bill of Costs from Sorrell (Dkt. #45), Jean's objections (Dkt. #47), and Sorrell's reply (Dkt. #48), as well as (2) Jean's Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs (Dkt. #52), and Krauss' response in opposition (Dkt. #54). Finding no basis to disturb the jury's verdict, Krauss' motions for post-trial relief (Dkt. #49) are denied. Further, Jean's application for attorney fees (Dkt. #52) is granted, Sorrell's Bill of Costs (Dkt. #45) is accepted and Jean's objections (Dkt. #47) are overruled, and the Court reserves decision on Jean's Bill of Costs (Dkt. #52) pending further submissions from the parties.

DISCUSSION

I. Motions for Judgment as a Matter of Law and For a New Trial

The proponent of a motion for judgment as a matter of law ("JMOL") under Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b) faces a "high bar, " Lavin-McEleney v. Marist Coll., 239 F.3d 476, 479 (2d Cir.2001), and the Second Circuit has cautioned that motions for judgment as a matter of law "should be granted cautiously and sparingly." Meloff v. N.Y. Life Ins. Co., 240 F.3d 138, 145 (2d Cir. 2001). In ruling on such a motion, "the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence... credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150-51 (2000) (citations omitted). In order to grant the application, this Court must find that "a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for" the non-movant. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a); see Cameron v. City of N.Y., 598 F.3d 50, 60 (2d Cir.2010) (The evidence must "so utterly discredit" the non-moving party such "that no reasonable juror could fail to believe the version advanced by the moving party.") (citation omitted).

The rules governing a motion for a new trial under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59 are somewhat less strict, in that the Court may weigh the evidence independently, and need not view it in the light most favorable to the prevailing party. See Manley v. AmBase Corp., 337 F.3d 237, 244-45 (2d Cir.2003). Unlike a motion for JMOL, a motion for a new trial "may be granted even if there is substantial evidence to support the jury's verdict." United States v. Landau, 155 F.3d 93, 104 (2d Cir.1998). Even under this less restrictive standard, the Second Circuit has cautioned that a new trial should not be granted "unless the trial court is convinced that the jury has reached a seriously erroneous result or that the verdict is a miscarriage of justice." Caruolo v. John Crane, Inc., 226 F.3d 46, 54 (2d Cir.2000). In other words, to order a new trial, the Court "must view the jury's verdict as against the weight of the evidence." Manley, 337 F.3d at 245 (quotation and citation omitted).

Turning first to Krauss' Motion for JMOL or a New Trial, the application is exceptionally sparse. The entirety of the affidavit in support from Krauss' attorney (Dkt. #49-1) states that:

(1) I am the attorney for defendant Joseph Krauss.
(2) I make this affidavit in support of the defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new trial.
(3) The plaintiff testified that he was assaulted by defendant Joseph Krauss and defendant Nathan Sorrell in concert.
(4) Defendant Joseph Krauss and defendant Nathan Sorrell both testified that there was no assault.
(5) The jury did not find against defendant Nathan Sorrell.
(6) No view of the evidence presented to the jury supports their verdict.
WHEREFORE, judgment dismissing the complaint or, in the alternative, granting defendant Joseph Krauss a ...

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