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Mason v. City of Chicago

August 10, 2009

CURTIS MASON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Morton Denlow

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case comes before the Court on a Rule 59 motion for a new trial, or alternatively, a remittitur, filed by Defendant City of Chicago ("Defendant" or "City").On June 15 through June 22, 2009, the Court conducted a jury trial in this Section 1983 case. On June 22, 2009, the jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff Curtis Mason ("Plaintiff" or "Mason") in the amount of $625,000 against Defendant. Defendant argues it was erroneously prevented from presenting highly probative evidence at trial; or alternatively, maintains that the jury's verdict was unreasonable, clearly appears "to be the result of passion and prejudice" and thus should be remitted. For the following reasons, the Court denies Defendant's motion for a new trial, or alternatively, a remittitur.

I. BACKGROUND FACTS

For purposes of this motion, the Court relies upon the facts as set forth in Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint; Defendant City of Chicago's Answer; the parties' briefs; and this Court's memorandum opinion and order issued on July 1, 2009 ("July 1, 2009 Opinion").*fn1 See Mason v. City of Chicago, 2009 WL 1891797 (July 1, 2009).

A. Events Surrounding Plaintiff's Arrest

On January 13, 2007, Chicago Police pulled over the car in which Plaintiff was a passenger for a traffic violation. Plaintiff alleges that during the stop, Chicago Police officers ("Officers") arrested and beat him without justification. Plaintiff claims he was kneed in the eye while lying handcuffed on the ground. Plaintiff claims he suffered severe physical injuries and emotional distress as a result of the Officers' conduct. Defendant denies all charges. Defendant contends the Officers used force on Plaintiff to take him down to the ground when he reached in his shirt while being searched. Neither the traffic stop nor the arrest involved the issue of drugs. There was never any mention of drugs in any of the police reports.

B. Background Regarding Plaintiff's Use of Marijuana on the Date of the Incident

During discovery, Plaintiff testified that he took "three to four puffs" of a marijuana cigarette three hours before his encounter with the police. See Dkt. 123, at 3 (citing Pl. Ex. A (Mason Dep.) at 77-79). Plaintiff claims he was not under the influence of marijuana at the time of the incident. All of the Officers' contemporaneous reports state Plaintiff was not intoxicated. Specifically, Plaintiff contends there is "absolutely no evidence in the record" that he was impaired by, or feeling any effects of, marijuana, at the time of the incident. Dkt. 123, at 3. Plaintiff relies upon the following: (1) the five sworn police reports the arresting officers (Officers Michael Garza ("Garza") and Elizabeth Briggs Ayala ("Briggs")) prepared, none of which indicate Plaintiff was under the influence of drugs; (2) the testimony of Garza and Briggs at Plaintiff's criminal trial, as well as during their depositions in connection with this case, during which they "said nothing" about Plaintiff having been under the influence of drugs; (3) evidence that the officers who admitted Plaintiff to the lockup the night of his arrest did not report that he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs; and (4) evidence that none of nine Officers who were on the scene of Plaintiff's arrest, including Garza and Briggs, stated Plaintiff or his girlfriend were under the influence of drugs or were suspected of being under the influence. There is no evidence of whether or how much marijuana was in Plaintiff's system at the time of the incident.

C. The Jury's Verdict

On June 22, 2009, the jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff in the amount of $625,000, against Defendant.Specifically, the jury found in favor of Plaintiff on his claims for excessive force (Count I) and malicious prosecution (Count IX); and it found in favor of Defendant, and against Plaintiff, on his claims for failure to intervene (Count V) and false arrest (Count II).

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Motions for a New Trial

Defendant requests a new trial pursuant to Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 59 provides in pertinent part:

(a) Grounds for New Trial. The court may, on motion, grant a new trial on some or all of the issues-and to any party-as follows: (A) after a jury trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore ...


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