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Roberts v. Alexandria Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 25, 2019

THOMAS ROBERTS and DIANE ROBERTS, Plaintiffs,
v.
ALEXANDRIA TRANSPORTATION, INC., et al., Defendants. ALEXANDRIA TRANSPORTATION, INC., et al., Third-Party Plaintiffs,
v.
SAFETY INTERNATIONAL, LLC, Third-Party Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Following a trial on Alexandria Transportation's, Alexandre Solomakha's, and Alex Express, LLC's (collectively, “Alex's”) contribution claim against remaining third-party defendant Safety International, LLC (“Safety”), each party filed post-trial motions. First, Safety has renewed their motion for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b). (ECF No. 342.) That rule allows the Court to direct entry of judgment as a matter of law in favor of a party if “a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the [opposing] party on that issue.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1). When deciding whether to do so, the Court should consider all of the evidence, but (1) must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party, (2) must not make credibility determinations, and (3) cannot weigh the evidence in contravention of what the fact-finder may have done. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). “That is, the court should give credence to the evidence favoring the nonmovant as well as that ‘evidence supporting the moving party that is uncontradicted and unimpeached, at least to the extent that that evidence comes from disinterested witnesses.'” Id. at 151 (quoting 9A C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2529, at 300 (2d ed. 1995)). This standard mirrors the standard for granting summary judgment. Reeves, 530 U.S. at 150 (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-51 (1986)); Murray v. Chicago Transit Auth., 252 F.3d 880, 887 (7th Cir. 2001).

         Here, the Court cannot grant Safety's request. The jury in this case was tasked with determining each party's percentage of liability in tort to the original plaintiff. And they found that Safety was 10% liable, Alex was 15% liable, and Edwards-Kamadulski, LLC (“Edwards”)-a former third-party defendant who needed to be on the verdict form in order to accurately determine each party's pro rata share of liability here-was 75% liable. (ECF No. 337.) Safety argues that the jury's verdict cannot stand because there was no evidence in this case that they had any duty to the original plaintiffs-specifically because representatives for both Safety and Edwards testified that the contract between them placed no legal duty on Safety-but the jury in this case believed otherwise. That may be due, at least in part, to the following testimony:

Q. (By Alex's Counsel) Mr. Edwards, you and I saw each other out in the hall earlier, is that right?
A. Yes, we did.
Q. And you were upset this morning that you would have to come back here this afternoon, weren't you?
A. No, I wasn't upset.
Q. No?
A. No.
Q. Didn't you, in fact, tell me that I don't want to call you in this case because you will try to destroy my case? Didn't you make that statement, sir?
A. No, I didn't.
Q. Okay. Thank you.

(ECF No. 351, pp. 128:6-18.) The jury in this case was the ultimate finder of fact, and it was entitled to give the testimony in this case whatever weight it deserved. This Court does not have the legal authority to second-guess that. The Court accordingly must deny Safety's motion.

         There is one other procedural matter to address in regards to Safety's post-trial motion. Even though Safety filed it 28 days after the verdict, they did not use that time to provide citations to the trial transcript-presumably because they did never ordered it. Instead, Alex ordered the transcript after Safety filed their motion and accurately cited to it in their response brief. Then, Safety filed a reply brief-which Local Rule 7.1 instructs “are not favored and should be filed only in exceptional circumstances”-in which Safety stated “that such [exceptional] circumstances exist based on the fact the transcript of the trial is now available and in the possession of Safety International's counsel.” That is in poor taste and is certainly not an exceptional circumstance. Safety could have ordered the transcript after ...


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