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Redmond v. Goosherst

August 12, 2008

ANDRE REDMOND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DANIEL GOOSHERST, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law. This matter is also before the court on Defendants' motions in the alternative for a new trial, or a vacation of the compensatory and punitive damages award, or for the entry of a remittitur. For the reasons stated below, we deny all of the above motions.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Andre Redmond ("Redmond") alleges in his second amended complaint that on May 8, 2004, he was returning to his car and was approached by the individual Defendants, Officers Daniel Goosherst ("Goosherst"), Louis Szubert ("Szubert"), and Jeffery Chevalier ("Chevalier")(collectively referred to as "Defendant Officers"). According to Redmond, he asked if there was a problem, and the Defendant Officers allegedly told him to "shut up" and put his hands on his car. (SA Compl. Par. 12-13). The officers then allegedly removed Redmond's car keys from his pocket and searched his car. Redmond contends that the officers failed to find anything in the car that showed that Redmond violated any law. Redmond allegedly asked the officers if he could go and without provocation the officers slammed him against the car and told him, "[t]hat's it, you're going to jail." (SA Compl. Par. 24). The officers allegedly arrested Redmond and refused Redmond's request to lock up his car before leaving the scene. The officers also allegedly left the windows of the car open and did not activate the car alarm. While the officers drove Redmond to the police station, they allegedly told him that they hoped someone would steal his car, and the officers used racial slurs when referring to Redmond. Redmond was allegedly charged with drinking on a public way. Redmond contends that he eventually learned that his car was stolen while he was at the police station. According to Redmond, his car was ultimately found in Indiana, but it had been damaged by the thief. Redmond further contends that he appeared in court for his criminal case, but none of the Defendant Officers appeared in court, and the case was dismissed. Redmond included in his second amended complaint a false arrest/false imprisonment claim brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983")(Count I), a Section 1983 Fourth Amendment claim based upon an illegal search of Redmond's person (Count II), a Section 1983 Fourth Amendment claim based upon an illegal search of Redmond's car (Count III), a Section 1983 excessive force claim (Count IV), a Section 1983 due process claim (Count V), a Section 1983 Monell claim (Count VI), and an indemnification claim (Count VII).

A jury trial was conducted and during the trial we granted Redmond's oral motion to voluntarily dismiss the excessive force claims brought against Szubert and Chevalier, and the illegal search of Redmond's vehicle claims brought against Goosherst and Chevalier. On March 4, 2008, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Redmond and against Goosherst, Szubert, and Chevalier on the false arrest claim. The jury also returned a verdict in favor of Szubert and against Redmond on the illegal search of vehicle claim. The jury also returned a verdict in favor of Redmond and against Goosherst on the excessive force claim.

The jury awarded compensatory damages in the amount of $7,500.00 in favor of Redmond and against Goosherst, Szubert, and Chevalier. The jury also awarded punitive damages in the amount of $20,000.00 in favor of Redmond and against Goosherst. The jury also awarded punitive damages in the amount of $8,000.00 in favor of Redmond and against Chevalier. Finally, the jury awarded punitive damages in the amount of $5,000.00 in favor of Redmond and against Szubert. Defendants now move for a judgment as a matter of law in their favor pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b) ("Rule 50(b)"). In the alternative, Defendants request that the court vacate the compensatory and punitive damages awards and afford Defendants a new trial, or enter a remittitur.

LEGAL STANDARD

Pursuant to Rule 50(b), after a jury verdict, the losing party can renew a motion for judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a)(b). If the court finds that "a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue, the court may. . .allow judgment on the verdict, if the jury returned a verdict; . . .order a new trial; or . . . direct the entry of judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b). In reviewing the jury's verdict, the court should consider "'whether the evidence presented, combined with all reasonable inferences permissibly drawn therefrom, is sufficient to support the verdict when viewed in the light most favorable to the party against whom the motion is directed.'" Susan Wakeen Doll Co., Inc. v. Ashton Drake Galleries, 272 F.3d 441, 449 (7th Cir. 2001)(quoting Goodwin v. MTD Prods., Inc., 232 F.3d 600, 606 (7th Cir. 2000)). The court should reverse the jury verdict only if the court concludes that "no rational juror could have found for the prevailing party." 272 F.3d at 449.

Pursuant to Rule 59(a), after a jury returns its verdict, the losing party can move for a new trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(a). A court should only grant a motion for a new trial "'if the verdict is against the manifest weight of the evidence.'" ABM Marking, Inc. v. Zanasi Fratelli, S.R.L., 353 F.3d 541, 545 (7th Cir. 2003)(quoting Lowe v. Consol. Freightways of Del., Inc., 177 F.3d 640, 641 (7th Cir. 1999)).

DISCUSSION

I. Punitive Damages Award

Defendants argue that the punitive damages award should be vacated, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support such an award, the jury's damages verdict reflects bias, passion, or prejudice, and the award would constitute a windfall for Redmond.

A. Amount of Awards and Evidence to Support Awards

Defendants contend that Redmond failed to present sufficient evidence to justify any punitive damages award against any of the Defendants. A jury can award punitive damages to a plaintiff "to further a State's legitimate interests in punishing unlawful conduct and deterring its repetition." BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559, 568 (1996). A punitive damages award will violate the Due Process Clause "[o]nly when an award can fairly be categorized as 'grossly excessive' in relation to these interests [and thus] enter[s] the zone of arbitrariness that violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Id.; see also Holmes v. Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Ry. Co., 18 F.3d 1393, 1395-96 (7th Cir. ...


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