United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division
MEMORANDUM ORDER AND OPINION
MICHAEL M. MIHM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is now before the Court on Plaintiff Shawn
Patterson's (“Plaintiff”) combined Motion for
Judgment as a Matter of Law and a New Trial (ECF No. 267).
For the reasons set forth below, the motions are DENIED and
the jury verdict STANDS.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
claimed that Baker, Fredrickson, and Martinez assaulted him
by slamming his head and continuously punching him on his
back and sides on February 7, 2012, and that Fredrickson
assaulted him again on February 9, 2012. (ECF No. 11 at 13,
14). On May 13, 2019, a two-day jury trial was held in this
case regarding Plaintiff's claims under 42 U.S.C.
§1983 for violations of the Eighth Amendment. At the
time of trial, Plaintiff was an inmate in the custody of the
Illinois Department of Corrections housed at Pontiac
Correctional Center. Defendants Matt Baker
(“Baker”) and Raul Martinez
(“Martinez”) were correctional officers from Hill
Correctional Center, while Defendant Todd Fredrickson
“Defendants”) was a sergeant. During trial,
Plaintiff also moved for Judgment as a Matter of Law prior to
the case being submitted to the jury, pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a), which the Court denied. On May 14, 2019,
the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants. (ECF No.
Rule of Civil Procedure 50 provides judgment as a matter of
law where “a reasonable jury [lacks] a legally
sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the [prevailing]
party[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a). In weighing a Rule 50
motion, “the question is simply whether the evidence as
a whole, when combined with all reasonable inferences
permissibly drawn from that evidence, is sufficient to allow
a reasonable jury to find in favor of the plaintiff.”
Hall v. Forest River, Inc., 536 F.3d 615, 619 (7th
Cir. 2008) (citing Hossack v. Floor Covering Assoc. of
Joliet, Inc., 492 F.3d 853, 859 (7th Cir. 2007)). A
jury's determination may be overturned only if “no
rational jury could have found for plaintiff, ” and
there must also be more than “a mere scintilla of
supporting evidence.” Walker v. Bd. of Regents of
Univ. of Wisconsin Sys., 410 F.3d 387, 393 (7th Cir.
2005) (quoting Millbrook v. IBP, Inc., 280 F.3d
1169, 1173 (7th Cir. 2002)). The court must “not make
credibility determinations or reweigh the evidence, ”
and “must disregard all evidence favorable to the
moving party that the jury is not required to believe.”
Tart v. Illinois Power Co., 366 F.3d 461, 472 (7th
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a), “[a] court may
only order a new trial if the jury's ‘verdict is
against the manifest weight of the evidence, ... or if for
other reasons the trial was not fair to the moving
party.'” Marcus & Millichap Inv. Servs. v.
Sekulovski, 639 F.3d 301, 313 (7th Cir. 2011). “In
ruling on a motion for a new trial, the judge may consider
the credibility of witnesses, the weight of the evidence, and
anything else which justice requires.” Bob Willow
Motors, Inc. v. Gen. Motors Corp., 872 F.2d 788, 798
(7th Cir. 1989) (internal citation omitted).
Judgment as a Matter of Law
contends that no reasonable juror would have believed
Defendants' “made-for- trial” testimony,
because their discovery responses indicated they did not
recall the incident with Plaintiff, and it was not until
after Defendants' counsel provided them with documents in
preparation for trial that they recalled the incident. (ECF
No. 267 at 2). According to Plaintiff, Defendants were served
with interrogatories in 2014, where they all responded by
stating they did not recall the alleged events of February 7,
2012. (ECF No. 257; Pl.'s Ex. 5). In late 2017 and early
2018, Plaintiff served a second set of interrogatories upon
Defendants where they similarly responded that they did not
recall having any physical contact with Plaintiff on February
7, 2012, or February 9, 2012. Id; Pl.'s Exs. 1,
3. Defendants claim that counsel has a right to provide his
clients with records in preparation for trial and that these
documents were used to refresh the recollection of Defendants
trial, Defendants recalled what occurred and testified as
much. (ECF No. 264 at 47 - 52). Specifically, Martinez
testified to the following set of events. While performing a
count in Plaintiff's wing on February 7, 2012, he saw
Plaintiff's cell door window covered with paper.
Id. at 48. Plaintiff was also naked at the time and
acting animated. Id. at 48, 51. Martinez testified
that he gave Plaintiff three direct orders to remove the
paper so he could complete his count, but Plaintiff refused.
Id. Thereafter, Martinez called Frederickson, his
supervisor, to handle the situation. Id. at 49.
Frederickson allegedly also gave direct orders for Plaintiff
to remove the paper from the window, which he refused to do.
Id. Baker was also present at this time and stood at
the cell door with Martinez. Id. at 51. Fredrickson
restrained Plaintiff because Plaintiff refused to remove the
paper. Id. Defendants then took a sheet or blanket
to cover Plaintiff and walked him over to the segregation
holding cell. Id. at 52.
review of the transcript from trial reveals that Defendants
were shown documents to refresh their memories. (ECF No. 264
at 46 - 47). For example, when Martinez was testifying, he
was shown a disciplinary report, and after reading it out
loud, he recalled the incident. Id. at 47 - 49. When
Plaintiff objected to the testimony as hearsay, the Court
overruled it. Id. at 49 - 50.
Federal Rules of Evidence allow for a witness to use a
writing in order to refresh his memory for the purpose of
testifying. Fed.R.Evid. 612. As the record confirms,
Defendants' counsel properly used documents to refresh
the recollection of Defendants at trial. Moreover, the Joint
Proposed Final Pretrial Order included all the documents that
could be shown at trial. (ECF No. 249). Defense counsel can
provide witnesses with documents during trial preparation,
especially if it will help them recall an event when called
to testify. See Fed. R. Evid. 612. These documents
were also exchanged during discovery. (ECF No. 276 at 7).
Accordingly, the Court finds that documents were not
improperly used to refresh Defendants' recollection
during trial, and Defendants not providing similar responses
to discovery requests had no bearing on the testimony.
Plaintiff is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law as
the record demonstrates a sufficient evidentiary basis for a
reasonable jury to have found for Defendants. Although
Plaintiff presented evidence that Defendants used excessive
force though testimony and some of the contents of the injury
report drafted by Nurse Brenda Aldridge
(“Aldridge”), it was up to the jury to determine
credibility to resolve contradictory evidence. In this
matter, the jury construed Defendants' evidence to be
more credible, and it is not the province of the Court to
substitute its view of the contested evidence for the
jury's where the jury's findings were reasonable.
“[T]he jury is the body best equipped to judge the
facts, weigh the evidence, determine credibility, and use its
common sense to arrive at a reasoned decision.”
Massey v. Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Illinois, 226
F.3d 922, 925 (7th Cir. 2000). “Overturning a jury
verdict is not something [the courts] do ...