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Gabriel v. Hamlin

March 4, 2009

AMILCAR GABRIEL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JIM HAMLIN, BOB DOERR, ALLEN WISELY, AND BRIAN RUIZ, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Before the Court are several post-trial motions. Defendant Brian Ruiz has filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial (Doc. 152, to which plaintiff has filed a response (Doc. 166). Plaintiff has also filed a motion for new trial on damages directed to defendant Ruiz (Doc. 171), and a motion for relief from judgment and renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial as to defendants Hamlin and Doerr (Doc. 174), to which the defendants have filed separate responses (Docs. 176, 177). Several of the issues raised in the motions overlap, but for purposes of clarity, the Court will address each motion in turn.

BACKGROUND

As a review, the plaintiff, Amilcar Gabriel, a former inmate at Big Muddy Correctional Center, filed a two count action against the defendants, Jim Hamlin, Bob Doerr, Allen Wisely, Brian Ruiz, and Wexford Health Services, claiming that on December 4, 2000, while an inmate, he was working in the kitchen cleaning an exhaust hood over large steam kettles, and that he fell and one of his legs went into a kettle, resulting in serious burns.

Count I alleged that the defendants, Jim Hamlin, and Bob Doerr, were deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's safety when they exposed plaintiff to dangerous work conditions in violation of his constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. The jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants and against plaintiff on Count I.

Count II alleged that the defendants, Allen Wisely, Brian Ruiz, and Wexford Health Services, were deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious need in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Plaintiff alleged that after he was burned these defendants denied him proper care for his injuries and pain. The Court, at the close of plaintiff's case, granted defendants Wisely and Wexford Health Services' motions for judgment as a matter of law and they were dismissed from the case. The jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff and against defendant Ruiz on Count II and awarded plaintiff's actual or compensatory damages in the amount of $50,000. Defendant Ruiz seeks relief from judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(e) whereas plaintiff seeks relief from judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b).

A. REVIEW STANDARDS

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide two ways in which a party may seek reconsideration of the merits of an order of the Court, namely, Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b). See, United States v. Deutsch, 981 F.2d 299, 300 (7th Cir. 1992); Hicks v. Midwest Transit, Inc., 531 F.2d 467, 473-74 (th Cir. 2008)..

1. Rule 59(e)

Under Rule 59(e), a litigant may move the Court to alter or amend a judgment, based on newly discovered evidence, an intervening change in the controlling law, or manifest error of law or fact. See Russell v. Delco Remy Div. of Gen. Motors Corp., 51 F.3d 746, 749 (7th Cir. 1995); Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e). Rule 59(e) must be invoked within ten days of the entry of the judgment, which defendant Ruiz has done in this case. Id.

2. Rule 60(b)

Plaintiff, on the other hand, asserts that he is seeking relief under Rule 60(b), which is similar to Rule 59(e) in that it enables a party to seek relief from a court's order. Under Rule 60(b) a court may grant relief only under the particular circumstances enumerated in the Rule, including: 1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) fraud; (4) a void judgment; (5) a satisfied, released, or discharged judgment; or (6) any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment. "Rule 60(b) is... an extraordinary remedy," which does not allow for "general pleas of relief." Deutsch, 981 F.2d at 301 (internal citation omitted). Nor is Rule 60(b) the "proper avenue to redress mistakes of law committed by the trial judge." Parke-Chapley Constr. Co. v. Cherrington, 865 F.2d 907, 915 (7th Cir. 1989). Legal error is not one of the specified grounds for a Rule 60(b) motion; in fact, it is "a forbidden ground." Marques v. Fed. Reserve Bank of Chi., 286 F.3d 1014, 1017 (7th Cir. 2002).

B. RUIZ'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW

Defendant Ruiz has filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law on Count II or for a new trial (Doc. 152), to which plaintiff has filed a response (Doc. 166). The defendant asserts several grounds for relief. Initially, the defendant asserts that the plaintiff presented insufficient evidence to establish that the defendant was indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical needs; second that the instruction the Court gave the jury (Plaintiff's Instruction 26A) was erroneous as a matter of law because it suggested a negligence standard, rather than a deliberate indifference standard; and third, that the Court erred when it overruled defendant's objection to the testimony of plaintiff's ...


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