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Parandian v. Great West Casualty Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

January 22, 2015

MORTEZA PARANDIAN AND SOUDABEH PARANDIAN,
v.
GREAT WEST CASUALTY COMPANY, CHRISTOPHER NDUNGU AND WELMAR EXPRESS

RULING

RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff Morteza Parandian's "Rule 59 Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment or in the Alternative Motion for a New Trial." (R. Doc. 56) ("Motion"). Defendants Great West Casualty Company, Christopher Ndungu, and Welmar Express oppose the Motion. (R. Doc. 57). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

This automobile accident lawsuit was originally brought in the 19th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and subsequently removed to this court pursuant to diversity jurisdiction. (R. Doc. 1-1). In his Petition, Plaintiff alleged that on the morning of April 18, 2012, he was stopped at a red light in his 2001 Nissan Altima at an intersection of East Boyd Street and Burbank Drive in Baton Rouge. (R. Doc. 1-6 at 1-2). Plaintiff alleged that defendant Christopher Ndungu turned left from Burbank Drive onto East Boyd Street in a 2001 Freightliner tractor/trailer rig in the course and scope of his employment with the rig's owner, defendant Welmar Express. (R. Doc. 1-6 at 2). The back tires of the rig allegedly struck the driver's side of Plaintiff's vehicle, causing property damage to the vehicle and personal injuries to Plaintiff. (R. Doc. 1-6 at 2-3). Plaintiff alleged that his personal injuries "have required continued medical treatment" and have caused him "to incur past and future medical expenses and to suffer past and future physical pain and suffering, past and future mental anguish pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, economic loss, loss of economic capacity, and other losses." (R. Doc. 1-6 at 3-4).

Defendants stipulated to liability for the accident. (R. Doc. 45). Accordingly, the threshold issue at trial was whether Plaintiff suffered personal injuries or damages that were attributable to the accident.

After a three-day trial, the jury rendered a verdict in Defendants' favor finding that the preponderance of the evidence did not support a finding that Plaintiff's personal injuries were proximately caused by the accident. (R. Doc. 54).

Plaintiff filed the instant Motion arguing that the jury was prejudiced against him and disregarded all medical evidence presented. (R. Doc. 56-1 at 1). It is undisputed that Plaintiff did not object (or otherwise bring to the attention of the Court) that any juror was inattentive during the trial in any manner. It is also undisputed that the race / ethnicity of the Plaintiff was raised during the trial by Plaintiff's counsel during his opening statement and never argued or suggested by the defense as a basis for finding in their favor.

II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

A. Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment

"A motion to alter or amend a judgment must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment." Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). A Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend the judgment "calls into question the correctness of a judgment." In re Transtexas Gas Corp. , 303 F.3d 571, 581 (5th Cir. 2002). Rule 59(e) is not the proper vehicle for rehashing evidence, legal theories, or arguments that could have been offered or raised before the entry of judgment. Templet v. HydroChem, Inc. , 367 F.3d 473, 478-79 (5th Cir. 2004). Instead, Rule 59(e) "serve[s] the narrow purpose of allowing a party to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Id. at 479 (quoting Waltman v. Int'l Paper Co., 875 F.2d 468, 473 (5th Cir.1989) (internal quotations omitted)). "Reconsideration of a judgment after its entry is an extraordinary remedy that should be used sparingly." Templet , 367 F.3d at 479. This Court may properly decline to consider new arguments or new evidence on reconsideration where those arguments were available to the movant prior to the Order and Judgment. Id. at 478-79.

Plaintiff fails to argue or allege that the Court has committed a manifest error of law or that Plaintiff has newly discovered evidence to submit. Plaintiff's arguments focus on the validity of a jury verdict and alleged jury misconduct. Accordingly, the Court will deny Plaintiff's motion to the extent he seeks to alter or amend the judgment.

B. Alternative Motion for New Trial

Jurisdiction in this case is based on diversity of citizenship between the parties. Neither party, however, addresses whether state or federal law provides the standard for reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence on a Rule 59 motion.[1] The Supreme Court in Gasperini v. Center for Humanities , 518 U.S. 415, 419 (1996) held that, in an action based on state law but tried in federal court by reason of diversity of citizenship, a district court must apply a new trial or remittitur standard according to the state's law controlling jury awards for excessiveness or inadequacy. See Fair v. Allen , 669 F.3d 601, 604 (5th Cir. 2012) (applying Gasperini and recognizing its effect on prior decisions). District courts in this circuit have applied Louisiana ...


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