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Cardona v. The Mason and Dixon Lines, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

September 1, 2017

ALBA CARDONA, Plaintiff,
v.
THE MASON AND DIXON LINES, INC. and TIMOTHY LEVERETTE, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JOHN J. O'SULLIVAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER came before the Court on the Plaintiffs Rule 59(a)(1)(A) Motion for New Trial and Incorporated Memorandum of Law (DE# 165, 8/10/17) and the Defendants' Motion to Strike the Post-Trial [P]roffer . . . of Trooper Harold Gracey's Testimony and Declaration of Trooper Harold Gracey as Proffer of Testimony (DE# 172, 8/24/17).

         BACKGROUND

         On July 13, 2017, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the defendants and against the plaintiff. See Verdict (DE# 140, 7/13/17). On the same day, the Court entered a final judgment in accordance with the verdict. See Final Judgment (DE# 141, 7/13/17).

         The plaintiff filed the instant motion on August 10, 2017. See Plaintiff's Rule 59(a)(1)(A) Motion for New Trial and Incorporated Memorandum of Law (DE# 165, 8/10/17) (hereinafter "Motion for New Trial"). The following day, the plaintiff filed the declaration of Trooper Harold Gracey. See Plaintiff's Notice of Filing Proffer (DE# 168, 8/11/17) (hereinafter "Proffer").[1] The defendants filed their response in opposition to the instant motion on August 22, 2017. See Defendants' Response to Plaintiffs Motion for New Trial and Incorporated Memorandum of Law (DE# 171, 8/22/17) (hereinafter "Response"). The plaintiff filed her reply on August 29, 2017. See Plaintiffs Reply Memorandum in Support of Rule 59(a)(1)(A) Motion for New Trial (DE# 165) (DE# 174, 8/29/17) (hereinafter "Reply").

         This matter is ripe for adjudication.

         ANALYSIS

         The decision to grant a new trial pursuant to Rule 59(a)(1)(A) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is within the Court's discretion. Burger King Corp. v. Mason. 710F.2d 1480, 1486 (11th Cir. 1983). Rule 59(a)(1)(A) states that a court may grant a motion for new 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). A Rule 59 motion for new trial "is governed by a less stringent standard" than "a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(b)." George v. GTE Directories Corp., 195 F.R.D. 696, 701 (M.D. Fla. 2000). When ruling on a Rule 59(a) motion for new trial, the trial judge must determine "if in his opinion, the verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence . . . or will result in a miscarriage of justice." Ins. Co. of N.A. v. Valente, 933 F.2d 921, 923 (11th Cir. 1991) (quoting Hewitt v. B.F. Goodrich Co., 732 F.2d 1554, 1556 (11th Cir. 1984)).

         The plaintiff argues that she is entitled to a new trial because: (1) "Trooper Gracey was not permitted to testify as to his conclusions at trial, and his report setting forth those conclusions and its supporting diagram were stricken on the basis of the Florida accident report privilege" and (2) the Court struck Paul Ramos who could testify as to the plaintiffs fall risk and current care needs. See Motion for New Trial (DE# 165 at 1-4).

         At the outset, the undersigned notes that the jury found defendant Timothy Leverette not liable. Therefore, the jury never reached the question of damages. See Verdict (DE# 140, 7/13/17). As such, the Court's exclusion of witness Paul Ramos had no impact on the jury's verdict. The Court is also unpersuaded by the plaintiffs argument that the striking of Mr. Ramos as a witness somehow impinged on the credibility of the plaintiff.[2]

         The plaintiff is also not entitled to a new trial on the ground that Trooper Harold Gracey's testimony was improperly limited at trial or that portions of the accident report were improperly excluded from the evidence. In the instant case, Trooper Gracey did not witness the accident and was not listed as an expert. On a motion in limine, the Court ruled that "the portions of the crash report and the updated crash report which [were] based on the statements and observations of individuals involved in the crash (including the diagrams) [would be] excluded from the evidence presented at trial, " but permitted "[e]stimates of damage to the vehicles" because those were "within Trooper Gracey's observations." Order (DE# 96 at 4). The Court also ruled that "[Trooper] Gracey's assessment of fault for the accident [would be] excluded as unduly prejudicial under Rule 403." Id. Consistent with these rulings, Trooper Gracey was permitted to testify about his observations when he arrived at the scene of the accident:

A. I was patrolling 826 eastbound in the area of Northwest 12th Ave at which time I observed eastbound traffic coming to a stop. I was on the FHP motorcycle. I passed traffic on the right shoulder. And as the traffic, the front of the traffic was stopped, I noticed a Nissan Sentra upside down in the eastbound lanes.
***
Q. What physical evidence was there on the ...

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