United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Renewed
Motions for Judgment as a Matter of Law pursuant to Rule
50(b) and Motions to Alter or Amend the Judgment pursuant to
Rule 59(e). In this case, Plaintiff Isaac Capps sued
Defendants asserting that his constitutional rights were
violated and seeking damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Plaintiff claimed that, during a traffic stop on April
17, 2012, Defendants Drake, Roye, Shaffer, and Trogolo used
excessive force while arresting him by using a taser and that
all Defendants failed to intervene to stop the excessive
force, in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
claims proceeded to trial on January 25, 2016. At the close
of Plaintiff's evidence, Defendants orally moved for
judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 50(a). Defendant Trogolo then filed a written
Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (Doc. 160), which all
Defendants joined. At the close of all evidence, Defendants
renewed their Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (Doc.
165). On February 1, 2016, the jury returned a verdict in
favor of Plaintiff on the claim of excessive force against
Defendants Trogolo and Roye and against all Defendants on the
claim of failure to intervene. The jury found in favor of
Defendants Drake and Shaffer on the claim of excessive force.
Capps was awarded compensatory damages of $22, 000 against
all defendants. The jury awarded punitive damages of $5, 000
against Defendant Trogolo, $5, 000 against Defendant Roye,
and $23 each against Defendants Drake, Freeman, Isaacs, and
February 26, 2016, Defendant Trogolo filed a Rule 50(b)
Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law and Rule 59(e)
Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment (Doc. 192). Defendants
Royce and Shaffer similarly filed a Rule 50(b) Renewed Motion
for Judgment as a Matter of Law and Rule 59(e) Motion to
Alter or Amend Judgment (Doc. 194) on March 3, 2016.
Defendants Drake, Freeman, and Issacs also renewed their
Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law on March 3, 2016, and
moved under Rule 59(e) to alter or amend the judgment (Doc.
195). Although Defendants filed separate motions, each motion
asserts the same bases for relief. Defendants claim that
their motions should be granted because (1) the evidence at
trial was insufficient to show as a matter of law that
Defendants' use of force was excessive; (2) no excessive
force was used, and no defendant had a realistic opportunity
to intervene; (3) each defendant was entitled to qualified
immunity; and (4) there was insufficient evidence to support
the jury's award of punitive damages against Defendants
because there was no evidence to show they acted recklessly
or with a callous indifference to Plaintiff's Fourth
Amendment rights. Plaintiff responded to Defendants'
motions on April 15, 2016 (Docs. 212, 213, 214).
motion for judgment as a matter of law made during trial that
is denied by the Court must be renewed pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b) to preserve issues or grounds
for appellate review. Unitherm Food Sys., Inc. v.
Swift-Eckrich, Inc., 546 U.S. 394, 401 (2006).
Similarly, a motion to alter or amend judgment under Rule
59(e) is designed to permit the Court to reconsider matters
decided by the judgment and must be filed no later than 28
days after the entry of the judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e).
renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law should only be
granted where, in viewing the evidence in light most
favorable to the non-moving party, there is no legally
sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find
for the non-moving party. Murray v. Chicago Transit
Auth., 252 F.3d 880, 886 (7th Cir. 2001); Payne v.
Milwaukee Cnty., 146 F.3d 430, 432 (7th Cir. 1998);
see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a). Evidence is strictly
construed “in favor of the party who prevailed before
the jury, ” and the Court may examine “the
evidence only to determine whether the jury's verdict
could reasonably be based on that evidence.”
Passananti v. Cook Cnty., 689 F.3d 655, 659 (7th
Cir. 2012). The Court does not make credibility findings or
weigh the evidence, and it must disregard evidence favorable
to the moving party that the jury was not required to
believe. Id. The Court must “leave the
judgment undisturbed unless the moving party can show that
‘no rational jury could have brought in a verdict
against [it].'” Hossack v. Floor Covering
Associates of Joliet, Inc., 492 F.3d 853, 859 (7th
Cir. 2007) (quoting Woodward v. Corr. Med. Servs. of
Illinois, Inc., 368 F.3d 917, 926 (7th Cir. 2004)). When
a case turns on credibility, judgment as a matter of law is
not proper unless the objective evidence shows that it would
be unreasonable to believe a critical witness from one side.
Payne, 146 F.3d at 433. In ruling on the renewed
motion, the Court may allow judgment on the verdict, order a
new trial, or direct the entry of judgment as a matter of
law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b).
Defendants' Renewed Motions for Judgment as a Matter of
renewed motions argue that the Court should grant
Defendants' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law or,
alternatively, alter or amend the judgment pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) by issuing judgment in
favor of Defendants because excessive force was not used,
therefore there was no need to intervene. Defendants also
claim that they are protected by the doctrine of qualified
immunity, and that there was insufficient evidence to support
an award of punitive damages against Defendants.
claims in the context of an arrest are reviewed under the
Fourth Amendment's objective-reasonableness standard.
Cyrus v. Town of Mukwonago, 624 F.3d 856, 861 (7th
Cir. 2010) (citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386,
395 (1989); Abdullahi v. City of Madison, 423 F.3d
763, 768 (7th Cir.2005)). “This inquiry requires an
examination of the ‘totality of the circumstances to
determine whether the intrusion on the citizen's Fourth
Amendment interests was justified by the countervailing
government[al] interests at stake.'” Id.
(quoting Jacobs v. City of Chicago, 215 F.3d 758,
773 (7th Cir. 2000)).
nature and extent of the force that may reasonably be used to
effectuate an arrest depends on the specific circumstances of
the arrest, including “the severity of the crime at
issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the
safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively
resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by
flight.” Id. at 861-62 (quoting
Graham, 490 U.S. at 396). Because law-enforcement
officers must make critical, split-second decisions in
difficult and potentially explosive situations, the
reasonableness of the officer's actions must be evaluated
“from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the
scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”
Id. Particularly relevant to this case,
“[w]hen the evidence includes a videotape of the
relevant events, the Court should not adopt the nonmoving
party's version of the events when that version is
blatantly contradicted by the videotape.” Williams
v. Brooks, 809 F.3d 936, 941 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 379-81 (2007)).
case, the videotape evidence of the incident is subject to
different interpretations. As Defendants were arresting
Plaintiff for DUI, he was told to put his arms behind his
back. Plaintiff claims he did not hear the instructions.
Defendants claim the video shows Plaintiff stiffening his
body and outstretched arms as Defendants Freeman and Shaffer
attempted to pull Plaintiff's arms behind his back.
Plaintiff claims he actually was being tased at that moment
by Defendant Shaffer, which caused his body to stiffen.
Defendants claim Plaintiff tried to grab Defendant
Trogolo's taser. Plaintiff testified he involuntarily
reacted as a result of being tased (Doc. 211, p. 50).
Unfortunately for Defendants, the video does not blatantly
contradict Plaintiff's version of the events. Based on