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Edwards v. Target Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky

April 23, 2013

MARY EDWARDS and LEW EDWARDS, PLAINTIFFS
v.
TARGET CORPORATION, DEFENDANT

Page 835

For Mary Edwards, Lew Edwards, Plaintiffs: Dallas E. George, Lebanon, KY; Joseph H. Mattingly, III, Kaelin G. Reed, Mattingly, Nally-Martin & Fowler PLLC, Lebanon, KY.

For Target Corporation, Defendant: Noel Halpin, Richard Paul Schiller, Schiller Osbourne Barnes & Maloney, PLLC, Louisville, KY.

OPINION

Page 836

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Thomas B. Russell, Senior United States District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on the Plaintiffs' motion for new trial. (Pls.' Mot., Docket Number (" DN" ) 62.) The Defendant has responded. (Def.'s Resp., DN 66.) The Plaintiffs have replied. (Pls.' Reply, DN 67.) Fully briefed, this matter is now ripe for adjudication. Having considered the matter and being fully advised, the Plaintiffs' motion is GRANTED

Page 837

IN PART and DENIED IN PART. This action is REOPENED and the Plaintiffs are granted a new trial on the issue of damages but not as to the apportionment of liability.

I.

Plaintiff Mary Edwards (" Mary" ) was injured when she tripped and fell over a parking barrier located in a parking lot adjacent to Defendant Target Corporation's (" Target" ) Elizabethtown, Kentucky store. The underlying facts are more fully set forth in Edwards v. Target Corp., No. 3:11-CV-00138-R, 2012 WL 1231773, at *1-3 (W.D. Ky. April 12, 2012). The case proceeded to trial on September 17, 2012. After two days of proof, the case was submitted to the jury, where the events leading to the present motion occurred.

After deliberating for approximately three hours, the jury returned its verdict. It apportioned fault between the parties, finding Mary ninety percent liable for her injuries and Target ten percent liable. As to damages, the jury awarded Mary $50,935.31 for past medical expenses, but declined to award her any damages for future medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages or income, or impairment of future earnings ability. The jury also declined to award Mary's husband damages for loss of consortium. Other than damages for past medical expenses, the jury filled in each blank of the jury form for the other categories of damages with " $0."

When the jury returned its verdict, Mary moved for a mistrial on grounds that the damage award was inadequate. Target, on the other hand, argued that the jury should be instructed to return to the jury room and deliberate further regarding an award of pain and suffering. Mary objected to this request and continued to advocate for a mistrial because the jury failed to follow the Court's instructions as to damages. The Court denied the motion and instructed the jury to further consider the issue of damages for pain and suffering. After a short, additional deliberation, the jury awarded Mary $5,000 for pain and suffering. Following this award, Mary renewed her motion for mistrial on grounds of an inadequate award. The Court also denied that motion.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)(1)(A), Mary now moves for a new trial on two grounds. First, she claims that jury's award for pain and suffering was inadequate when weighed against the evidence presented at trial and therefore warrants a new trial on the issue of damages. As a corollary to this argument, she asserts that the initial award of zero damages for pain and suffering was inadequate and that the Court's instruction to deliberate further on the issue, and the jury's eventual award of $5,000, did not cure the defective verdict. Second, she argues that the jury's verdict indicates an inappropriate compromise among the jurors. As a result of the alleged compromise, Mary seeks a new trial on all issues, including liability.

II.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)(1)(A), a court may grant a motion for new trial " for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court." The language of Rule 59 has generally been interpreted to mean that " a new trial is warranted when a jury has reached a 'seriously erroneous result' as evidenced by: (1) the verdict being against the weight of the evidence; (2) the damages being excessive; or (3) the trial being unfair to the moving party in ...


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