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Gilbert v. Lessard

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

August 7, 2019

GILBERT O'NEIL
v.
MAJ. SHANNON LESSARD, ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for New Trial and/or Motion to Alter or Amend Judgement (Doc. 69). In addition, for the first time, post-trial, in their Amended Motion for New Trial and/or Alter Judgement (Doc. 78), Defendants argue that the Court did not have jurisdiction to hear this matter, based on the Supreme Court's ruling in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). For the reasons stated below, the court DENIES Defendants' motions.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         This matter arises from an attack which occurred on or about January 8, 2016 at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center ("EHCC"). (Doc. 1). Gilbert O'Neil ("Plaintiff) alleged that an employee of the EHCC attempted to strike him, after which Plaintiff retaliated. (Id. at ¶ 6). Plaintiff claimed that he was eventually brought to an x-ray room and was restrained, at which point Major Shannon Lessard and an unnamed cadet began to beat Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶¶ 9, 11). Plaintiff alleged that Lieutenant Jarrod Verrett and Master Sargent Eric Lane entered the room and joined in the attack. (Id. at ¶ 12). Plaintiff claimed that Lane and Verret continued beating him while he was restrained and being transported back to his cell. (Id. at¶ 16).

         Plaintiff alleged that as a result of the attacks, he was unable to walk for three weeks, and had injuries to his head, arm, left elbow, lower back, left hip, and left leg. (Id. at ¶ 20). Plaintiff further alleged that Lessard did not have her body camera at the time of the incident and no photographs of his injuries were taken. (Id. at ¶¶ 21, 23). Plaintiff argued that the force used against him was unreasonable, that Defendants had treated other inmates similarly, and that the internal policies of the EHCC were violated by the attack. (Id. at ¶¶ 25; 26; 30).

         A trial in this matter was commenced on August 21, 2018 (Doc. G&) and the jury returned a verdict form finding that:

1. It was more likely than not that Defendants used excessive force against Plaintiff.
2. It was more likely than not that Plaintiff suffered harm as a result of Defendants' use of force.
3. Defendants were not entitled to Qualified Immunity.
4. Plaintiff was owed Compensatory Damages resulting from Defendants' use of force.
5. Plaintiff was entitled to $50, 000.00 in Compensatory Damages.
6. It was more likely than not that Defendants acted with reckless indifference to Plaintiffs safety.
7. Lessard was assessed $7, 500.00 in Punitive Damages, Verrett was assessed $5, 000.00 in Punitive Damages, and Lane was assessed $5, 000.00 in Punitive Damages.

(Id.). Defendants now move for an Order setting aside the verdict and judgment pursuant to Rule 59(a)(1)(A) and Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Doc. 69). Defendants argue for the first time that the Supreme Court's decision in Heck v, Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) deprived this Court of jurisdiction over the claims and that the matter should be dismissed. They argue that because Plaintiff was subjected to prison disciplinary procedures as a result of the incident, he was barred from making a civil claim against Defendants based on the Heck doctrine.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)(1)(A) provides that the Court "may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the issues - and to any party - . . . after a jury trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court." Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1)(A). "The decision to grant or deny a motion for new trial is within the sound ...


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