United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. ROSENSTENGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on the Rule 59 Motion and Rule
50 Motion filed by Plaintiff David Robert Bentz (Doc. 136).
Bentz filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging a violation of his constitutional rights, on
December 12, 2013 (Doc. 1). Specifically, Bentz claimed
Defendant Berner spit in his face and that Defendants
destroyed his clothing, bedding, and legal materials, and
denied him replacement clothing, bedding, and legal
materials, all in retaliation for Bentz filing lawsuits and
making other complaints. Bentz also asserted that Defendant
Miner used excessive force when he shoved Bentz into a steel
door frame, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and that
Defendants did nothing to stop the attack or otherwise
case was tried to a jury in March 2017. After a two-day
trial, the jury found in favor of Defendants and against
Bentz (Doc. 174). Judgment was entered on March 22, 2017
(Doc. 178). On April 14, 2017, Bentz filed the instant motion
pursuant to Rules 50 and 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Rule 59 Motion for New Trial
allows the Court to grant a new trial on all or some of the
issues, for any reason for which a new trial has been granted
in federal court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1)(A). The motion must
be filed within 28 days of the entry of judgment.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(b). “In ruling on a motion for new
trial under Rule 59(a), the Court must determine whether the
jury verdict was against the weight of the evidence or if the
trial was unfair to the moving party.” Purtell v.
Mason, No. 04 C 7005, 2006 WL 2037254, at *3 (N.D. Ill.
July 18, 2006) (citing Kapelanski v. Johnson, 390
F.3d 525, 530 (7th Cir. 2004)). Federal courts will not
“set aside a jury verdict if a reasonable basis exists
in the record to support the verdict . . . .”
Kapelanski, 390 F.3d at 530. In this case, Bentz
seeks a new trial pursuant to Rule 59 for several reasons,
each of which the Court discusses in turn.
first claims he is entitled to relief because each Defendant
testified they never read the complaint in this case and had
no idea what they were being sued for until a couple of weeks
before trial. Bentz argues that the answers filed by defense
counsel, therefore, must have been fabricated. Because the
answers were “false documents, ” Bentz contends,
Defendants never truly answered the complaint and, thus, are
in default. Bentz seeks default judgment as a result.
response, Defendants note that they filed answers through
counsel on March II, 2014, April 16, 2014, May 5, 2014, and
July 7, 2014-three years prior to trial (Docs. 39, 44, 51,
56). That Defendants did not remember, while on the stand,
their involvement in the case three years ago, does not void
their properly filed answers to the complaint. Furthermore,
Defendants argue that Bentz's motion pursuant to Rule 59
is not a proper motion for default judgment, and to the
extent he seeks default judgment, the requirements under the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have not been met. Rather,
Rule 55 requires either a failure to appear or otherwise
defend, in addition to a hearing with written notice.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55. Because Defendants have appeared and
litigated this case to its conclusion, default judgment would
Court finds that Bentz's motion for default judgment,
while also procedurally improper, wholly lacks merit. This is
not an instance where the Defendants refused to participate
in the litigation or to “otherwise defend” the
lawsuit. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a). Defendants
answered discovery, filed motions for summary judgment, and
defended the case through a jury trial. See Cannon v.
Washington, 321 F. App'x 501, 503 (7th Cir. 2009)
(citing 10A Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Mary
Kay Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2682 (3d ed.
2008) (explaining that motions challenging sufficiency of
pleadings are sufficient to “otherwise defend”
against a lawsuit); Rashidi v. Albright, 818 F.Supp.
1354, 1356 (D. Nev. 1993) (concluding that filing a motion
for summary judgment constitutes defense against a lawsuit
for purposes of Rule 55)).
Defendants have not defaulted, there is no basis to enter
default judgment. Furthermore, even if they had, the entry of
default judgment after a trial on the merits would be
improper because “[u]sing a default judgment to strip
the winner of its rights, in response to non-prejudicial
neglect, cannot be appropriate. It would be a pointless
windfall.” Id. (quoting Mommaerts v.
Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., 472 F.3d 967,
968-69 (7th Cir. 2007)). Bentz is not entitled to relief on
next argues he should receive a new trial because Defendants
failed to disclose certain items in discovery, including
written policies of the Illinois Department of Corrections
(“IDOC”) or Menard and the names of inmates who
had call passes in East House on the date of the assault.
Defendants, in response, argue that Bentz never raised these
issues at trial and, therefore, they are forfeited. Further,
Bentz does not cite to any specific discovery requests or
motions to compel, and he provides no citations to case law
or rules of civil procedure that would prohibit Defendants
from testifying as to Menard's policies without providing
written copies of those policies.
Rule 26(e), “[a] party who has made a disclosure under
Rule 26(a) . . . must supplement or correct its disclosure or
response . . . in a timely manner if the party learns that in
some material respect the disclosure or response is
incomplete or incorrect, and if the additional or corrective
information has not otherwise been made known to the other
parties . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(e). Additionally,
under Rule 26(g), every discovery response must be signed by
an attorney of record, thereby certifying-to the best of the
attorney's “knowledge, information, and belief
formed after reasonable inquiry”-that the response is
rule-compliant. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(g). Attorney misconduct in
the discovery phase, including violations of Rule 26, can
warrant a new trial. See Harrington v. City of
Chicago, No. 13 C 8277, 2016 WL 6680515, at *2 (N.D.
Ill. Nov. 14, 2016) (citing Brandt v. Vulcan, Inc.,
30 F.3d 752, 758 (7th Cir. 1994)). A new trial is
“dramatic relief, ” however, and is not warranted
unless the movant demonstrates (1) attorney misconduct
occurred and (2) prejudice resulted that necessitates a new
Bentz has failed to show evidence of attorney misconduct or
prejudice that would necessitate a new trial. Evidence of
Menard's written policies on transfers, clothing,
shakedowns, and property confiscation, which Defendants
testified to but apparently did not produce, would not
“tip the scales” in this case. Defendants
testified to the policies, and although Bentz argues they
each gave conflicting testimony regarding certain policies