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Kie v. Williams

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

March 29, 2017





         This is a personal injury action brought by Plaintiffs Alvin Kie and Pecola Kie (“the Kies”) against Defendants Tory Williams (“Williams”), Tommie Morgan (“Morgan”), and Werner Enterprises, Inc. (“Werner”) arising from a June 4, 2014 motor vehicle accident. Prior to trial, the claims against Morgan were dismissed.

         A jury trial was held on November 28-December 2, 2016. On December 2, 2016, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants, finding that Williams was not negligent. [Doc. No. 133]. The Court entered a Judgment [Doc. No. 134] on December 7, 2016, consistent with the jury's verdict.

         On December 22, 2016, the Kies filed a Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment [Doc. No. 137] and a Motion for New Trial [Doc. No. 138]. On January 11, 2017, Defendants filed memoranda in opposition to the Kies' motions [Doc. Nos. 144 & 145].

         For the following reasons, the Kies' motions are DENIED.


         Motions to alter or amend judgment and for new trial are both governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59. Rule 59(e) permits a party to file a motion to alter or amend a judgment within 28 days of its entry. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). Although the rule itself does not provide the bases for altering or amending a judgment, case law has recognized three grounds: (1) an intervening change in the law, (2) newly discovered evidence, (3) correction of clear or manifest error of law or fact. See Ferraro v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 796 F.3d 529, 534-35 (5th Cir. 2015) Demahy v. Schwarz Pharma, Inc., 702 F.3d 177, 182-84 (5th Cir. 2012); In re Benjamin Moore & Co., 318 F.3d 626, 629 (5th Cir.2002).

         Rule 59(a) provides that a new trial may be granted “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.” Generally, there are four reasons a district court may grant a new trial under Rule 59(a): (1) if the court finds that the verdict is against the great weight of the evidence, (2) the damages awarded are excessive, (3) the trial was unfair, or (4) prejudicial error was committed. See Smith v. Transworld Drilling Co., 773 F.2d 610, 613 (5th Cir. 1985). A district court has “sound discretion” to grant or deny new trial motions. See Pryor v. Trane Co., 138 F.3d 1024, 1026 (5th Cir. 1998).

         II. ANALYSIS

         The Kies moves the Court to set aside the jury's verdict and order a new trial because the jury's determination that Williams was not negligent is clearly erroneous, and manifest injustice will occur if the verdict is allowed to stand. The Kies argue that they presented testimony from three “independent and disinterested witnesses”-Brian Myrick (“Myrick”), Robert Fountain, Sr., and Willie Jean Fountain-and that these witnesses all confirmed that Mr. Kie was stopped in the left or inside lane waiting to execute a left turn when Williams' trailer crossed into Mr. Kie's lane, struck his vehicle, and pushed it forward. The Kies further point out that these witnesses also confirmed that Williams continued on without stopping after the accident. Although the Kies admit that the witnesses knew them before the accident, the witnesses also testified that they did not receive anything of value for their testimony. The Kies reject the alternative theory offered by Delhi Police Officer Derrick Whitney because Officer Whitney admitted that the scene had been compromised by passing traffic before his arrival and that eyewitness testimony is most reliable. Finally, the Kies argue that Williams admitted that he did not even know an accident happened, so he could not say that his tractor trailer did not cross over into Mr. Kie's lane of traffic.

         In addition to their arguments as to the weight of the evidence, the Kies also contend that the verdict should be set aside because the Court improperly allowed the jury to see the “not to scale” drawing prepared by Officer Whitney, but would not allow the Kies' counsel to question Officer Whitney about the statements of the driver and passenger.

         Defendants respond that the jury's verdict is not against the great weight of the evidence and that the Court did not err by allowing Officer Whitney to use his drawing as a demonstrative aid during his testimony. First, as to the evidence offered at trial, Defendants point out that they cross-examined Mr. Kie about his own prior inconsistent statement and cross-examined the three witnesses about their failure to stay at the scene or come forward to police. They also point to inconsistencies between the testimonies of Robert and Willie Fountain. Finally, Officer Whitney offered testimony which supported Williams' own testimony and was consistent with his review of the scene. With regard to the drawing, Defendants point out that it was not admitted into evidence, but was used by Officer Whitney as a demonstrative aid during his testimony, and the Kies' counsel had the opportunity to cross-examine Officer Whitney. As his direct testimony was limited to his observations, the Court properly excluded any testimony about the statements of witnesses on cross.

         Having reviewed the parties' memoranda and considering the Court's own recollection of testimony and evidence presented at trial, the Court finds that the jury's verdict should not be altered, nor should a new trial be held. Although the Kies presented a greater number of witnesses ...

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