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Alvarez v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

April 27, 2017

ANGEL ALVAREZ, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, P.O. MICHAEL TEDESCHI, THOMAS COZART, P.O. DOUGLAS BRIGHTMAN, SGT. PAUL KERRIGAN, and SGT. PHILIP TERPOS, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          J. PAUL OETKEN United States District Judge.

         This case was tried before a jury, and on September 28, 2016, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of Plaintiff Angel Alvarez, finding that three of the five individual Defendants had violated his federal civil rights by using excessive force. The jury awarded $1 in nominal damages. (Dkt. No. 155.) Before the Court now are Plaintiff's motion for a new trial as to damages or for an award of attorneys' fees and costs (Dkt. No. 173), and Defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50, in which they also seek post-offer costs (Dkt. No. 182). For the reasons that follow, both motions are granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         Familiarity with the background of this case is presumed. The Court therefore summarizes only the facts and proceedings at trial as relevant to the present motions.

         Plaintiff Angel Alvarez sued Defendants the City of New York, Police Officer Douglas Brightman, Police Officer Thomas Cozart, Sergeant Paul Kerrigan, Police Officer Michael Tedeschi, and Sergeant Philip Terpos, claiming that they violated his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and under New York law. Alvarez alleged that he was subjected to excessive force in August of 2010, when Defendants Cozart, Kerrigan, Tedeschi, and Brightman discharged their firearms, striking him over twenty times, and when Brightman kicked him in the head and Terpos forcibly handcuffed him, in connection with an altercation between Alvarez and non-party Luis Soto. Alvarez claimed that he has experienced pain and suffering as a result of Defendants' actions. (Dkt. No. 1.)

         The case was tried before a jury, which returned a verdict in favor of Alvarez on his claims that Defendants Cozart, Kerrigan, and Tedeschi used excessive force, and in favor of Defendants Brightman and Terpos. (Dkt. No. 155.) The jury awarded Alvarez $1.00 in nominal damages, and declined to award compensatory or punitive damages. (Id.) The jury also answered a series of special interrogatories (Dkt. No. 156):

Question 1:
Do you find by a preponderance of the evidence that plaintiff had control of a firearm at any point during the incident?
YES ___NO X
Question 2:
Do you find by a preponderance of the evidence that any of the defendants believed reasonably, even if mistakenly, that plaintiff had control of a firearm and posed a significant threat of death or serious physical injury at any point during the incident?
YES X NO ___
If yes, which defendants:
a. Thomas M. Cozart YES X NO ___
b. Paul Kerrigan YES X NO___
c. Michael T. Tedeschi YES X NO ___
Question 3:
Do you find by a preponderance of the evidence that any of the defendants continued to shoot at plaintiff after it was no longer reasonable to believe that plaintiff posed a significant threat of death or serious physical injury?
YES X NO ___
If yes, which defendants:
a. Thomas M. Cozart YES X NO ...

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