UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
February 28, 2002
PABLO SUAREZ JR., PLAINTIFF,
DR. THOMAS MATTINGLY, DR. JOSEPH V. ZAPPASODI, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Joseph H. Rodriguez
This matter having come before the Court on Plaintiff's motion for a new trial pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 59; and
The Court having considered the written submissions of counsel for Plaintiff and Defendants and having heard oral argument from the attorneys on February 5, 2002; and
The Court finding that motions for new trials are generally governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a), which provides in pertinent part:
A new trial may be granted to all or any of the parties and on all or part of the issues in an action in which there has been a trial by jury, for any of the reasons for which new trials have heretofore been granted in actions at law in the courts of the United States. Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(a).
A new trial will commonly be granted when the jury's verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence, and a new trial must be granted to prevent a miscarriage of justice, Roebuck v. Drexel Univ., 852 F.2d 715, 717 (3d Cir. 1988); (2) when improper conduct by an attorney or the court unfairly influenced the verdict, Fineman v. Armstrong World Indus., Inc., 980 F.2d 171, 207 (3d Cir. 1992); (3) when the jury verdict was facially inconsistent, Mosley v. Wilson, 102 F.3d 85, 90 (3d Cir. 1996); or (4) where a verdict is so grossly excessive or inadequate "as to shock the judicial conscience," Savarese v. Agriss, 883 F.2d 1194, 1205 (3d Cir. 1998); and
The Court further finding that whether a new trial is granted is left to the sound discretion of the trial court, Wagner by Wagner v. Fair Acres Geriatric Center, 49 F.3d 1002, 1017 (3d Cir.1995); and
It appearing that the Plaintiff has based his motion for a new trial on the ground that the no-cause jury verdict returned in the case was against the weight of the evidence regarding liability, and that the Court should grant a new trial for the additional reason that Plaintiff's counsel suspects that the jury may have been subjected to some extraneous influence or in receipt of some prejudicial extrinsic information because, days after the trial, Plaintiff's counsel was contacted by another attorney who was representing one of the jurors from Plaintiff's trial who apparently expressed to the attorney some type of concern about the verdict and considered "coming forward"; and
The Court further finding that the grant of a new trial because the verdict is against the weight of the evidence is only appropriate when "the record shows that the jury's verdict resulted in a miscarriage of justice or where the verdict, on the record, cries out to be overturned or shocks our conscience," Greenleaf v. Garlock, Inc., 174 F.3d 352, 366 (3d Cir. 1999) (quoting Williamson v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 926 F.2d 1344, 1353 (3d Cir. 1991)), and that this standard serves to prevent usurpation of the jury's prime function as the trier of fact and ensures that the "district court does not substitute its 'judgment of the facts and the credibility of the witnesses for that of the jury,'" Fineman v. Armstrong World Indus., Inc., 980 F.2d 171, 211 (3d Cir. 1992) (quoting Lind v. Schenley, 278 F.2d 79, 90 (3d Cir. 1960)); and
The Court further finding that there was ample evidence to support the jury's verdict that the Defendants were not liable to the Plaintiff and that the case turned on expert testimony and the credibility of the witnesses; and
The Court further finding that Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) does not permit inquiry into the internal deliberations of jurors, Tanner v. United States, 483 U.S. 107 (1987), but provides,
Upon an inquiry into the validity of a verdict or indictment, a juror may not testify as to any matter or statement occurring during the course of the jury's deliberations or to the effect of anything upon that or any other juror's mind or emotions as influencing the juror to assent to or dissent from the verdict or indictment or concerning the juror's mental processes in connection therewith, except that a juror may testify on the question whether extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury's attention or whether any outside influence was improperly brought to bear upon any juror. Nor may a juror's affidavit or evidence of any statement by the juror concerning a matter about which the juror would be precluded from testifying be received for these purposes. Fed. R. Evid. 606(b); and
The Court further finding that the record is lacking in any actual evidence of outside influence or extraneous prejudicial information improperly brought to the jury's attention; and
The Court having invited further briefing on this issue, due February 19, 2002; and
The Court therefore determining that the jury's verdict comported with the evidence presented at trial and that no new trial is warranted,
IT IS ORDERED on this 28th day of February, 2002 that Plaintiff's motion for a new trial is hereby DENIED.
JOSEPH H. RODRIGUEZ U.S.D.J.
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