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Simoneaux v. Ei Du Pont De Nemours and Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

June 25, 2015

JEFFREY M. SIMONEAUX, ET AL
v.
E.I. du PONT de NEMOURS AND COMPANY

RULING

SHELLY D. DICK, District Judge.

Before the Court is the Relator Jeffrey M. Simoneaux's Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, Motion for New Trial Under Rule 59, and Motion for Relief of Judgment Under Rule 60 [1] and Relator's Supplemental Motion for Relief from Judgment Under Rule 60(b)(3) and Alternatively Motion to Set Aside Judgment Under Rule 60(d)(3). [2] Both Motions are opposed by the Defendant, E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co. (DuPont).[3]

I. RULE 50(b) JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW

Relator moved for Judgment as a Matter of Law at the close of Relator's case in chief and again at the close of all the evidence. The Motion was denied. Relator renews his Motion for Judgment as Matter of Law under Rule 50(b). Judgment as a matter of law should be granted only if "there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for the party on that issue."[4] The Court "draw[s] all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence."[5] This Court has recently recognized that "[c]ourts should be wary of upsetting jury verdicts, and should do so only when there is not a legally-sufficient evidentiary basis for the jury's verdict."[6]

The Court denies Relator's 50(b) Motion for the same reasons orally assigned by the Court in denying Relator's 50(a) Motion.

II. RULE 59 MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL

Relator moves for new trial under Rule 59 on two grounds. First Relator contends that the jury's verdict was against the great weight of the evidence. The verdict of a jury must not be disturbed lightly. "[F]acts once found by the jury in the context of the civil trial are not to be reweighed and a new trial granted lightly."[7] In evaluating a challenge that the verdict is against the weight of the evidence, "the court weighs all the evidence and need not view it in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[8] A motion for a new trial should not be granted unless the verdict is against the great weight of the evidence, not merely against the preponderance of the evidence."[9] After considering the totality of the evidence that was before the jury, the Court cannot conclude that the verdict was against the weight of that evidence. Accordingly, the Court declines to disturb the jury's verdict on those grounds.

Secondly, Relator moves for new trial on the grounds of newly discovered evidence. A motion for relief from a judgment on the grounds of newly discovered evidence is addressed to sound discretion of district court.[10] To warrant a new trial on the grounds of newly discovered evidence, "the movant must show that the evidence existed at the time of the trial, was discovered following the trial, that [movant] used due diligence to discover the evidence at the time of the trial, that the evidence is not merely cumulative nor impeaching, that it is material, and that a new trial in which the evidence was introduced would probably produce a different result."[11] New evidence that would merely affect the weight and credibility of trial evidence may be considered cumulative and thus insufficient to warrant a new trial.[12] The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the new evidence clearly weighs in favor of a new trial.[13]

Relator asserts that the following three pieces of newly discovered evidence mandate a new trial under Rule 59.

A. Corporate Engineering Standard

Relator, argues that a document titled "Corporate Engineering Standard: P-42E On-Line Leak Repair of Piping Components"[14] ("Engineering Standard"), which was produced by DuPont in other litigation, [15] was responsive to discovery requests in this case but not produced by DuPont, and relator argues that this document "would have likely altered the outcome of Mr. Simoneaux's case".[16]

This Engineering Standard specifies DuPont's procedure "for implementing a temporary on-line leak repair of piping components".[17] At issue in this case were leaks of SO2 and SO3 from DuPont manufacturing process equipment referred to as the HIP, CIP, and Converter.[18] There was no evidence that this manufacturing equipment comprised "piping components". Relator, nonetheless, argues that the newly discovered Engineering Standard was material and relevant because according to the document "the concepts in it can be used to implement temporary on-line leak repairs for other pressure equipment".[19] Relator argues that the leaking HIP, CIP, and Converter were "pressure equipment" to which the newly discovered Engineering Standard applied and that the Engineering Standard, if applied, would have mandated a plant shutdown to make permanent repairs.[20]

It was undisputed that DuPont's process equipment, specifically the HIP, CIP, and Converter leaked and that, while awaiting new equipment, DuPont employed temporary measures[21], namely a vacuum hose recovery system, to capture the leaks while continuing to operate the Burnside Plant. The evidence established that, owing largely to the nature of the leak capture measures implemented by DuPont, [22] the precise location of the leaks could not be determined nor could the integrity of the materials surrounding the leaks be verified. According to the subject Engineering Standards, if either of these conditions existed, the unit had to be shut down for permanent repairs.

Assuming arguendo that these newly discovered Engineering Standards applied to the HIP, CIP, and Converter at issue, and assuming that the Engineering Standard mandated a shutdown, this evidence is nonetheless immaterial and irrelevant to the ultimate inquiry which the jury was called upon to answer, namely:

"Do you find by a preponderance of the evidence, that DuPont obtained information that reasonably supported the conclusion that the leaks of chemicals or chemical mixtures at its Burnside facility presented a substantial risk of injury to health or the environment?"[23]

Simply put, whether DuPont was obliged by its Engineering Standards to shut down the units involved is not probative of whether DuPont obtained information that reasonably supported the conclusion that the leaks of chemicals or chemical mixtures at its Burnside facility presented a substantial risk of injury to health or the environment.

Accordingly, the Court finds that the "Corporate Engineering Standard: P-42E On-Line Leak Repair of Piping Components" is not material, nor would its introduction into evidence ...


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