United States District Court, N.D. New York
AUSTIN LLP WILLIAM M. SNEED, ESQ. THOMAS D. CUNNINGHAM, ESQ.
DANIEL R. THIES, ESQ. Attorneys for Plaintiff.
WILLIAMS LOPATTO PLLC JOHN B. WILLIAMS, ESQ. MARY A. LOPATTO,
ESQ. Attorneys for Defendant.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
N. HURD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
trial was held between November 27, 2017, and December 13,
2017, at the conclusion of which the jury returned a verdict
in favor of plaintiff Utica Mutual Insurance Company
("Utica" or "plaintiff") on its sole
claim for breach of contract. The jury awarded plaintiff $35
million in damages plus interest running from September 22,
2008. Prejudgment interest was calculated at $29, 092, 191.78
and judgment entered in favor of Utica for $64, 092, 191.78.
Fireman's Fund Insurance Company ("FFIC" or
"defendant") now renews its motion for judgment as
a matter of law pursuant to Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure ("Rule ___") or, in the
alternative, for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59. FFIC also
separately moves to correct the interest calculation in the
judgment pursuant to Rule 60. The motions were fully briefed
and have been considered on the basis of the submissions.
parties' familiarity with the underlying facts
established at trial is assumed. This case has a lengthy
history which all are familiar with, including years of
discovery, multiple rounds of motion practice, and a jury
trial spanning nearly three weeks.
Rules 50 and 59
50(a)(1) permits a court to render judgment as a matter of
law and vacate a jury's verdict if it finds that "a
reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient
evidentiary basis" to reach its conclusion. The standard
is well settled:
Judgment as a matter of law may not properly be granted under
Rule 50 unless the evidence, viewed in the light most
favorable to the opposing party, is insufficient to permit a
reasonable juror to find in [its] favor. In deciding such a
motion, the court must give deference to all credibility
determinations and reasonable inferences of the jury, and it
may not itself weigh the credibility of witnesses or consider
the weight of the evidence.
Galdieri-Ambrosini v. Nat'l Realty & Dev.
Corp., 136 F.3d 276, 289 (2d Cir.1998) (internal
standard for post-verdict judgment as a matter of law is the
same as that for summary judgment under Rule 56. Nadel v.
Isaksson, 321 F.3d 266, 272 (2d Cir. 2003). Thus,
"a district court must deny a motion for judgment as a
matter of law unless . . . there can be but one conclusion as
to the verdict that reasonable persons could have
reached." Id. (internal quotations omitted).
The proponent of a motion for judgment as a matter of law
under Rule 50(b) faces a "high bar, "
Lavin-McEleney v. Marist College, 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).
moving party must also fulfill the procedural prerequisite of
moving for judgment as a matter of law before the case is
submitted to the jury. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(2).
And a party may only make a post-judgment Rule 50(b) motion
based on grounds specifically raised at the close of
evidence. Lambert v. Genesee Hosp., 10 F.3d 46,
53-54 (2d Cir. 1993). If the movant does not meet the Rule 50
specificity requirement, the court may not grant judgment as
a matter of law unless the result is required "to
prevent manifest injustice." Lore v. City of
Syracuse, 670 F.3d 127, 153 (2d Cir. 2012). A
"manifest injustice" exists only when "a
jury's verdict is wholly without legal support."
Jacques v. DiMarzio, Inc., 386 F.3d 192, 199 (2d
Cir. 2004) (superseded by statute on other grounds).
standard under Rule 59, which permits a court to "grant
a new trial on all or some of the issues, " see
Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1), is less stringent, Manley v.
AmBase Corp., 337 F.3d 237, 244 (2d Cir. 2003).
"[I]n deciding a motion for a new trial, the district
court is permitted to examine the evidence through its own
eyes . . . [and] can grant such a motion even if there is
substantial evidence supporting the jury's verdict."
Green v. City of New York, 359 Fed.Appx. 197, 199
(2d Cir. 2009) (summary order) (internal quotations and
"'[a] motion for a new trial ordinarily 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.'" Townsend v.
Benjamin Enters., Inc., 679 F.3d 41, 51 (2d Cir. 2012)
(quoting Medforms, Inc. v. Healthcare Mgmt. Sols.,
Inc., 290 F.3d 98, 106 (2d Cir. 2002)). Though a trial
judge is free to weigh the evidence himself, the court should
only grant a Rule 59 motion when the jury's verdict is
"egregious" and "should rarely disturb a
jury's evaluation of a witness's credibility."
Ferreira v. City of Binghamton, No. 3:13-CV-107,
2017 WL 4286626, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 27, 2017) (McAvoy,
S.J.) (internal quotations omitted).
60(a) provides in relevant part: "(a) Corrections Based
on Clerical Mistakes; Oversights and Omissions. The court may
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." Prejudgment
interest is frequently the subject of Rule 60(a) motions in
this Circuit. See Roberts v. Bennaceur, 658
Fed.Appx. 611, 621 n.9 (2d Cir. 2016) (summary order).
"[A] Rule 60(a) motion is appropriate where the judgment
has failed accurately to reflect the actual decision of the
decision maker." Robert Lewis Rosen Assocs., Ltd. v.
Webb, 473 F.3d 498, 504 (2d Cir. 2007) (internal