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Sublett v. Sheets

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah

February 16, 2018

DAMIEN SUBLETT, PLAINTIFF
v.
MARLENE SHEETS, et al., DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge

         This matter comes before the Court upon three motions. First, Plaintiff Damien Sublett (“Sublett”) has filed a Motion for New Trial against Defendant Kaci Simmons (“Simmons”). [DN 153.] Second, Sublett has filed a Motion to Supplement his Motion for New Trial against Simmons. [DN 154.] Third, Sublett has filed a Motion for New Trial against Defendant Laura Delaney (“Delaney”). [DN 160.] These matters are ripe for adjudication. For the reasons stated herein, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Sublett's Motion to Supplement [DN 154] is GRANTED and his two Motions for New Trial [DN 153, DN 160] are DENIED.

         I. Background

         Sublett filed a First Amendment retaliation claim against Delaney and a Fourth Amendment claim of invasion of bodily privacy against Delaney's co-defendant, Simmons. This matter was taken to trial in November 2017, wherein a defense verdict was rendered on both counts. A lengthy factual background is laid out in this Court's previous Memorandum Opinion and Order docketed at ¶ 65.

         II. Motion to Supplement

         The first Motion at issue is Sublett's Motion to Supplement his first Motion for New Trial against Simmons. This Motion to Supplement was filed on December 1, 2017, a mere one day after his initial Motion for New Trial. The Court being sufficiently advised, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Sublett's Motion to Supplement [DN 154] is GRANTED. The Court will consider the information contained in the supplement alongside his initial Motion for New Trial against Simmons.

         III. Motion for New Trial against Simmons

         A. Legal Standard

         The second Motion at issue is Sublett's Motion for New Trial against Simmons. [DN 153.] Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a), “[t]he court may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the issues…(A) after a jury trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court.” Additionally, district courts may grant a new trial where “it is quite clear that the jury has reached a seriously erroneous result.” Gasperini v. Ctr. For Humanities, Inc., 518 U.S. 415, 468 (1995). Any such motion “must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(b).

         “[C]ourts have interpreted th[e] language [of Rule 59(a)] to mean that a new trial is warranted when a jury has reached a ‘seriously erroneous result' as evidenced by” one of three things: “(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 some fashion, i.e., the proceedings being influenced by prejudice or bias.” Holmes v. City of Massillon, Ohio, 78 F.3d 1041, 1045-46 (6th Cir. 1996) (citing Montgomery Ward & Co. v. Duncan, 311 U.S. 243, 251 (1940), Cygnar v. City of Chicago, 865 F.2d 827, 835 (7th Cir. 1989), and Mallis v. Bankers Trust Co., 717 F.2d 683, 691 (2d Cir. 1983)). The decision to grant or deny a motion for a new trial is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Id. at 1045.

         B. Discussion

         In support of his contention that he is entitled to a new trial against Simmons, Sublett proffers two primary arguments: (1) the verdict was against the great weight of the evidence, and (2) the proceedings were influenced by prejudice and/or bias. [See DN 153-1, at 2, 5.] The Court will address each of these arguments in turn.

         1. The verdict was not against the great weight of the evidence

         First, Sublett has set forth the argument that, in returning a verdict in favor of Simmons, the jury acted against the great weight of the evidence. [DN 153-1, at 2.] Specifically, Sublett states, erroneously, that his only burden as the plaintiff at trial “was to prove Simmons did not have a legitimate [p]enological [r]eason to position her self [sic] to view inside the caged shower.” [Id. at 3.] He goes on to state in conclusory fashion that, “as the evidence showed, Simmons did not have a legitimate penological interest in positioning her self [sic] to view inside the shower, and the evidence submit[ted] at trial established such, thus the jury verdict was against the weight of the evidence showing Simmons did not have a[] penological interest whil[e] viewing Sublett in the shower.” [Id.] Finally, Sublett has made a list of seven different pieces of “evidence” he claims to have presented at trial. [Id. at 2-3.] For the sake of completeness, they are laid out below [sic throughout]:

(1) There is or was not any disput[e] that Sublett retained, a [F]ourth Amendment ‘Bodily Privacy' while showering…
(2) There is no diput[e] that defendant Simmons, positioned her self on December 16, 2015 to enable Simmons to view inside the shower cage area, where ...

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