The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bissell, District Judge.
The present matter arises pursuant to several remaining
motions in this action. First, defendant Armstrong has moved
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59 for a new trial, as an alternative to its
motion for J.N.O.V. Second, Armstrong has separately moved
under Rule 49 (pertaining to inconsistent verdicts) for a new
trial. Finally, the plaintiffs have moved for "reformation of
the judgment," requesting this Court to allow them to recover
both the tort and antitrust awards.
Armstrong's motion under Rule 49*fn1 may be disposed of as
quickly as plaintiffs' motion concerning the judgment. This
motion relates to jury answers to interrogatories concerning
"overlap" amounts between compensatory awards for the tort
claims and the antitrust claims.*fn2 This motion is denied
without further discussion. This Court has vacated the judgment
based upon the verdict in its earlier Opinion granting
defendant's motion for J.N.O.V. Furthermore, even if the
verdict remained, this Court grants defendant's motion for a
new trial on the grounds enunciated below, and thus denies the
motion under Rule 49 because such motion is unnecessary.
This Court issued its Opinion as to the motion for J.N.O.V.
on June 20, 1991, granting defendant's motion in full. The
present Opinion is to be considered in conjunction therewith,
and so will not repeat the pertinent facts and background
contained therein as such discussion is hereby incorporated by
The present opinion is required in light of the fact that
this Court granted the defendant's motion for J.N.O.V. in its
If the motion for judgment notwithstanding the
verdict, provided for in subdivision (b) of this
rule, is granted, the court shall also rule on the
motion for a new trial, if any, by determining
whether it should be granted if the judgment is
thereafter vacated or reversed, and shall specify
grounds for granting or denying the motion for the
new trial. If the motion for a new trial is thus
conditionally granted, the order thereon does not
affect the finality of the judgment. . . .
The defendant asserts three grounds for its motion under Rule
59. First, it contends that the verdict is contrary to the
clear weight of the evidence. Second, Armstrong asserts that it
is entitled to a new trial because of improper, prejudicial
arguments made to the jury by the plaintiffs' counsel. Third,
Armstrong asserts that both the compensatory and punitive
awards in this case are so grossly excessive as to shock the
conscience, thus requiring a new trial.
A. Standards Governing Motions for a New Trial
In general, a trial court should grant a motion for a new
trial when, in its opinion, "the verdict is contrary to the
great weight of the evidence, thus making a new trial necessary
to prevent a miscarriage of justice." Roebuck v. Drexel
University, 852 F.2d 715, 736 (3d Cir. 1988). "The authority to
grant a new trial . . . is confided almost entirety to the
exercise of discretion on the part of the trial court." (Id. at
735 (quoting American Bearing Co. v. Litton Industries,
729 F.2d 943, 948 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 854, 105 S.Ct.
178, 83 L.Ed.2d 112 (1984)). Such discretion reflects the fact
that "the district court was able to observe the witnesses and
follow the trial in a way that [the Appellate Court] cannot
replicate by reviewing a cold record." (Id., citing Semper v.
Santos, 845 F.2d 1233, 1237 (3d Cir. 1988)).
The discretion of the court is not unlimited, however.
Necessarily, when a motion for a new trial based on the weight
of the evidence is granted, the court has:
to some extent at least substituted his judgment
of the facts and the credibility of the witnesses
for that of the jury. Such an action effects a
denigration of the jury system and to the extent
that new trials are granted the judge takes over,
if he does not usurp, the prime function of the
jury as the trier of facts.
Williamson v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 926 F.2d 1344, 1352 (3d
Cir. 1991) (quoting Lind v. Schenley Indus., Inc., 278 F.2d 79,
90 (3d Cir.) (in banc), cert. denied, 364 U.S. 835, 81 S.Ct.
58, 5 L.Ed.2d 60 (1960)). As with a motion for J.N.O.V., "[a]
district court may not substitute its own judgment for that of
the jury simply because the court might have come to a
different conclusion." Grace v. Mauser-Werke Gmbh, 700 F. Supp. 1383,
1387 (E.D.Pa. 1988) (citing Douglas W. Randall, Inc. v.
A.F.A. Protective Systems, Inc., 516 F. Supp. 1122, 1124
(E.D.Pa. 1981), aff'd mem., 688 F.2d 820 (3d Cir. 1982)).
However, a careful analysis of permissible inferences the jury
could reasonably draw from the evidence presented at trial does
not invade the exclusive domain of the jury. Nebel v. Avichal
Enterprises, Inc., 704 F. Supp. 570, 574 (D.N.J. 1989) (citing
Roebuck, 852 F.2d at 736). Where the verdict is based on
inferences which are "mere speculation", a new trial becomes
necessary. (Id.) Thus, "the district court ought to grant a new
trial on the ...