United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
D. ENGELHARDT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Plaintiff Shamberia Necole Smith's
Motion for New Trial (Rec. Doc. 89). Having carefully
considered the motion, the applicable law, and the record of
this matter, the Court DENIES the motion as
Motion for New Trial is filed pursuant to Rule 59(a) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Rec. Doc. 89.
Rule 59(a) allows a Court to grant a new trial following a
trial by jury for “any reason for which a new trial has
heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal
court.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(a). "A new
trial may be granted, for example, if the district court
finds the verdict is against the weight of the evidence, the
damages awarded are excessive, the trial was unfair, or
prejudicial error was committed in its course.”
Smith v. Transworld Drilling Co., 773 F.2d 610, 613
(5th Cir. 1985) (internal citations omitted). In considering
a Rule 59(a) motion based on evidentiary grounds, a court may
weigh all the evidence in the record, "but need not view
it in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party."
Id. The decision to grant or deny a motion for new
trial falls within the sound discretion of the district
court. Seibert v. Jackson Cnty., 851 F.3d 430, 438
(5th Cir. 2017) (citing Treadaway v. Societe Anonyme
Louis-Dreyfus, 894 F.2d 161, 164 (5th Cir. 1990)).
Applying these standards to Plaintiff's motion, the Court
finds her request for a new trial on the asserted grounds to
motion, Plaintiff contends that the inclusion of any mention
of Plaintiff's employer, Hammond Daily Star,
"relating to her Workers' Compensation" was
improper and created juror confusion. (Rec. Doc. 89-1 at p.
2). Specifically, Plaintiff complains that Defense
counsel's use of Exhibit 7 (Workers' Compensation 1008
Form) in his opening statement, and the inclusion of the
Hammond Daily Star in the jury instructions and jury verdict
form was prejudicial error. (Id.). Plaintiff cites
the jury's question asking whether Ms. Smith had any
pending lawsuits against Hammond Daily Star as evidence that
the jury was "misguided." (Rec. Doc. 89 at p. 2).
did not file a written objection to the now disputed Exhibit
7, nor does Plaintiff point to an objection made during trial
regarding the use of Exhibit 7. (Rec. Doc. 83-1 at p. 1).
Rather, this exhibit was listed in the Joint Pre-Trial Order
under Defendant's list of exhibits "to be admitted
without objection." (Rec. Doc. 61 at p. 15)
(emphasis added). Despite Plaintiff's oversight,
Plaintiff concedes that the Court ordered that Workers'
Compensation was not to be referenced at trial. (Rec. Doc. 89
at p. 2). Further, pursuant to the Court's oral ruling,
Exhibit 7 was permitted for use as an accident report,
provided Workers' Compensation references were redacted.
At trial, Exhibit 7 was admitted without objection (Rec. Doc.
78, minute entry). Moreover, Plaintiff admits that "the
amount of the Louisiana Workers compensation benefits was
never mentioned to the jury." (Rec. Doc. 89-1 at p. 8).
Accordingly, the Court finds that this challenge was not
preserved, is without merit, and thus is not grounds
warranting a new trial.
Court is equally unpersuaded by Plaintiff's argument for
a new trial based on the inclusion of Hammond Daily Star
Publishing, Inc. in the jury instructions and jury verdict
form. On Monday, April 30, 2018, the Court held a conference
regarding jury instructions and the jury verdict form. The
Court made revisions in accordance with the parties'
mutual agreement and provided the revised documents to
parties' counsel for review. Neither party made any
objection or request for further revisions. At the close of
evidence, but prior to jury deliberation, the Court inquired
as to whether either party had objections to the jury
instructions or the jury verdict form. Plaintiff made no
objections,  as required by Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 51. Furthermore, Plaintiff participated in
consideration of the jury's question and made no
objection regarding the answer provided to the jury, which
referred the jury back to the comparative fault instruction.
(Rec. Doc. 81-1).
was given multiple opportunities to timely object to the
proposed instructions and the jury verdict form; however, the
record is devoid of any indication that Plaintiff objected to
either with respect to the issues she now cites as grounds
for a new trial. Notably, Plaintiff never filed objections to
the jury instructions in accordance with the Court's
April 19, 2018 Order. (See Rec. Doc. 53). In an
effort to preserve her challenge, Plaintiff cites to Rec.
Doc. 66, "Objections to Kansa's Proposed
Jury Verdict Form, " which Plaintiff filed on April 24,
2018. The Court finds the filing date significant as
Plaintiff's only objection on record was filed prior to
the jury charge conference, as well as prior to the
Court's inquiry regarding objections to the final jury
instructions and final jury verdict form. Additionally, in
Rec. Doc. 66, Plaintiff cites a Louisiana Supreme Court case
recognizing that the 1996 revisions to Article 2323
require the Court to consider and quantify the fault
of each non-intentional tortfeasor. (Rec. Doc. 66 at p. 2).
must object at trial to a jury instruction or jury verdict
form otherwise the right to challenge is waived. See Tex.
Beef Grp. v. Winfrey, 201 F.3d 680, 689 (5th Cir. 2000).
A motion for a new trial “cannot be used to raise
arguments which could, and should, have been made before the
judgment issued." Garriott v. NCsoft Corp., 661
F.3d 243, 248 (5th Cir. 2011). Thus, Plaintiff waived her
right to challenge the exhibit, jury instructions, and jury
verdict form when she failed to timely object at trial,
despite the numerous opportunities the Court provided to
raise such objections. See Moyer v. Siemens Vai Services,
LLC, No. 11-3185, 2013 WL 5839336 (E.D. La. Oct. 29,
assuming, arguendo, if it were improper to ask the
jury to attribute a percentage to Hammond Daily Star
Publishing Company's fault,  any such error would be
harmless. See, e.g., Rouillier v. Illinois Cent. Gulf
R.R., No. 87-0677, 1988 WL 98282 (E.D. La. Sept. 15,
1988). At most, the error would affect the amount of total
damages the jury would find plaintiff to have suffered.
However, the jury never had to reach the interrogatories
relative to Hammond Daily Star Publishing, Inc. In accordance
with the instructions on the jury verdict form, the jury
stopped answering the interrogatories once it decided that
the Kansa 480 Newspaper Inserter was not unreasonably
dangerous in design or due to inadequate
warning. (Rec. Doc. 85).
the Court rejects Plaintiffs argument that the jury's
finding with respect to inadequate warning warrants a new
trial. The Court cannot find that the jury's
verdict was contrary to the weight of the evidence. Upon
evaluating the evidence for itself, the Court finds
sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict.
the foregoing, the Court finds that Plaintiff has
demonstrated nothing more than that she is disappointed with
the jury's verdict. She certainly has not shown
entitlement to the extraordinary relief of a new trial.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff s
Motion for New Trial (Rec. Doc. 89) is