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McDavid v. Dobler

October 27, 2006

KRISTOFER MCDAVID, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MATTHEW DOBLER, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

A. Introduction

In April 2005, Kristofer McDavid filed suit in this Court, alleging that a St. Clair County Sheriff's Deputy (Matthew Dobler) arrested him (McDavid) without probable cause and with excessive force. McDavid asserted that these claims violated his federally secured civil rights and state common law. He named three Defendants: (1) Deputy Dobler, (2) Sheriff Mearl Justus, and (3) St. Clair County, Illinois.

Just before trial, McDavid voluntarily dismissed two Defendants (the Sheriff and the County), leaving only his claims against Deputy Dobler. See Docs. 29, 30.

Jury trial commenced July 10, 2006 and culminated in a July 12, 2006 defense verdict. See Doc. 37. Judgment was entered on July 25, 2006, after the Court denied a motion that had been taken under advisement during trial. See Docs. 41, 42.

McDavid timely moved for a new trial on July 31st. The motion has been fully briefed. For the reasons described below, the Court DENIES McDavid's motion for new trial.

B. Analysis

FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 59(a) provides that in any action where there has been a jury trial, a new trial may be granted "for any of the reasons for which new trials have heretofore been granted in actions at law in the courts of the United States."

That language has been interpreted to mean that a district court may grant a new trial only if the jury's verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence, or a new trial is necessary to prevent a miscarriage of justice. See Romero v. Cincinnati, Inc., 171 F.3d 1091, 1096 (7th Cir. 1999); Lonsdorf v. Seefeldt, 47 F.3d 893, 897 (7th Cir. 1995); Sokol Crystal Products, Inc. v. DSC Communications Corp., 15 F.3d 1427, 1432 (7th Cir. 1994).

The law of this Circuit holds:

A new trial may be granted only if the verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence.... "[W]e will not set aside a jury verdict if a reasonable basis exists in the record to support that verdict...." The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the prevailing party, and issues of credibility and weight of evidence are within the purview of the jury.

Carter v. Chicago Police Officers, 165 F.3d 1071, 1079 (7th Cir. 1998)(emphasis added). Accord Cefalu v. Village of Elk Grove, 211 F.3d 416, 424 (7th Cir. 2000).

McDavid offers seven grounds in support of his new trial motion. First, he contends that the Court erred in allowing amendment of the Final Pretrial Order. Second, he criticizes defense counsel's statements during closing argument. Third, he maintains that the Court erred in asking witness Kristen Amann questions submitted by the jury. Fourth, he asserts that the Court erred in overruling his objections to defense counsel's cross-examination of Dr. David Mitchell. Fifth and sixth, he assigns error to rulings on two jury instructions (Plaintiff's Proposed Instruction 23 and Defendant's Proposed Instruction 35). Finally, he argues that the jury's verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Each of these arguments is discussed below, beginning with the issue regarding the amendment to the Final Pretrial Order.

On June 16, 2006, the Court conducted a final pretrial conference and entered a Final Pretrial Order. Thirteen days later - and still twelve days before trial -- defense counsel (who had listed six people on their witness list) moved to ...


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