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Williams v. Liefer

August 18, 2006

DAVID WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN LIEFER ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stiehl, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Before the Court is defendants' renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative for a new trial (Doc. 117), to which plaintiff has responded (Doc. 122), and plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees, expenses and costs (Doc. 119), to which defendants have responded (Doc. 123).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections, filed suit against several defendants under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment rights. On Count 1, the jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff and against certain defendants, awarding plaintiff $4,500.00. The jury found in favor of all defendants on Count 3. All other Counts had been previously disposed of by the Court.

ANALYSIS

1. Defendants' Motion (Doc. 117)

During the trial, at the close of all the evidence, defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b). The Court denied that motion. Defendants Hoffman, Leifer and Massey now renew their motion for judgment as a matter of law. The standard governing a Rule 50 motion mirrors that employed in evaluating a summary judgment motion. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). Looking at "all of the evidence in the record," id., the relevant question is whether "any reasonable jury could have reached the same conclusion." Liu v. Price Waterhouse LLP, 302 F.3d 749, 754 (7th Cir. 2002).

The only argument contained in this motion that has not been previously rejected by the Court is defendants' claim that they are entitled to qualified immunity. Qualified immunity shields government officials performing discretionary functions from liability for civil damages unless their conduct violates clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. See Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987).

The Court previously held, when considering defendants' pre-trial motions, that remaining material questions of fact precluded a ruling regarding qualified immunity. (Docs. 64, 69). However, at trial all defendants were asked by plaintiff's counsel and testified that based on their training and experience when an inmate complains of chest pain and numbness in the arm immediate medical attention is required.

The Court FINDS that there was sufficient evidence produced at trial that a reasonable jury could have concluded that plaintiff complained of chest pain and numbness in the arm, and that defendants deliberately ignored his complaints. Further, the law is clear that deliberate indifference to a serious medical condition is a violation of a clearly established constitutional right. See, e.g., Walker v. Benjamin, 293 F.3d 1030, 1040 (7th Cir.2002). In addition, because a reasonable officer in defendants' position should or would have understood he was violating Williams's constitutional rights to adequate medical treatment by denying him immediate medical attention which, in all probability, could severely impact Williams's health. Thus, defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity.

Accordingly, the Court FINDS that there was sufficient evidence in the record to provide a reasonable basis for the jury's verdict, and that defendants have proffered no new law or argument that persuades the Court to turn from its prior rulings. Therefore, defendants renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, is DENIED.

In the alternative, defendants move for a new trial pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 59. "Under Rule 59(a), the district court must determine whether the verdict is against the weight of the evidence, the damages are excessive or insufficient, or if for other reasons the trial was not fair to the moving party." Briggs v. Marshall, 93 F.3d 355, 360 (7th Cir. 1996) (internal citations omitted). Defendants argue that the jury's verdict was against the weight of the evidence and improper jury instructions were given. (Doc. 117). As stated above, the Court FINDS that there was sufficient evidence in the record to provide a reasonable basis for the jury's verdict.

Defendants challenge two jury instructions: plaintiff's 13,*fn1 and plaintiff's 15. As given by the Court, plaintiff's 13 stated as follows:

When I use the term "deliberate indifference," I mean that a defendant or defendants actually knew of a substantial risk of serious harm to the plaintiff and that a defendant or defendants consciously disregarded the ...


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