United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS JUDGMENT (Dkt. No. 120)
Katherine A. Robertson United States Magistrate Judge
On November 5, 2015, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff Kathy Picard on all four counts of her complaint and awarded her $250, 000.00 in compensatory damages. The court entered judgment on the same date. On December 3, 2015, Defendant filed a “Motion to Dismiss Judgement” (Dkt. No. 120), which Plaintiff has opposed (Dkt. No. 121). For the following reasons, Defendant’s motion is DENIED.
A. Procedural Posture
Defendant, proceeding pro se, fails to identify the procedural basis for his motion. Motions seeking relief from judgment entered following a jury trial can fall under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) or 60(b).
“Rule 59 provides that a new trial may be granted in a jury action for any reason for which new trials were granted at common law.” Perez-Perez v. Popular Leasing Rental, Inc., 993 F.2d 281, 283 (1st Cir. 1993). See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(a)(1)(A). “When considering a Rule 59(a) motion, ‘a district court may set aside a jury’s verdict and order a new trial only if the verdict is against the demonstrable weight of the credible evidence or results in a blatant miscarriage of justice.’” Acevedo-Garcia v. Monroig, 351 F.3d 547, 565 (1st Cir. 2003) (quoting Sanchez v. Puerto Rico Oil Co., 37 F.3d 712, 717 (1st Cir.1994)). “‘[M]otions for a new trial [under Rule 59(a)] are directed to the trial court’s discretion and this remedy is sparingly used.’” Dall v. Coffin, 970 F.2d 964, 969 (1st Cir. 1992) (quoting United States v. Rivera-Sola, 713 F.2d 866, 874 (1st Cir.1983)). “[D]eference must be accorded to a jury’s verdict; it should not be overturned except ‘under most compelling of circumstances’ where it is seriously erroneous.” Bell v. Potter, 234 F.Supp.2d 91, 100 (D. Mass. 2002) (quoting Flores-Suarez v. Turabo Med. Ctr., 165 F.Supp.2d 79, 85 (D.P.R. 2001)). Rule 59 motions must be filed within 28 days after entry of judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(b).
Rule 60(b) allows a court to relieve a party from final judgement “for the following [pertinent] reasons: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud …; … or (6) any other reason that justifies relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). “[I]n general … the grounds for relief from judgment under Rule 60(b) may also be grounds for a new trial under Rule 59, if the motion is timely made.” Perez-Perez, 993 F.2d at 283 (citing 11 Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil §§ 2805-2810 (1973)). “In other words, the litigant who gets his motion in on time enjoys the full menu of grounds for relief provided by Rule 59; if not, he is confined to the … specific grounds of relief found in Rule 60(b).” Id. at 284.
The “inquiry into the character of the motion is a functional one: ‘nomenclature should not be exalted over substance.’” Perez-Perez, 993 F.2d at 283 (quoting Echevarria-Gonzalez v. Gonzalez-Chapel, 849 F.2d 24, 26 (1st Cir. 1998)). In situations such as this where a motion is timely under Rule 59(b), it is appropriate to construe it as a motion for a new trial under Rule 59(a). Id. See also Fryer v. A.S.A.P. Fire and Safety Corp., No. 09-10178-MBB, 2010 WL 3191785, at *5 n.11 (D. Mass. Aug. 12, 2010) (“Because the … motion is timely under Rule 59(b) and does not refer to Rule 60, it is not appropriate to construe the motion as seeking relief from a judgment or order under Rule 60.”). Thus, the court interprets Defendant’s motion as seeking relief pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a).
B. Defendant’s Arguments for Relief
Defendant raises five grounds for relief in separately numbered paragraphs. The first two grounds relate to concerns about a lack of juror impartiality. The second two relate to credibility concerns with respect to two of Plaintiff’s witnesses. The final ground consists of a non-particularized claim of misconduct by Plaintiff, which Defendant claims he was unable to expose due to his pro se status.
1. Arguments Relating to the Jury
Defendant complains that Plaintiff and her counsel “MALICIOUSLY ATTACKED” him publicly on “MASS LIVE” on November 1, 2015, the day before trial commenced, and as a result he was denied a fair trial (Dkt. No. 120 at p. 1). Defendant also claims that during jury selection, his daughter, Darlene Nicely - who was present with and assisted him throughout the trial, including the entire jury selection process - “stated that we grew-up with JURROR [sic] NO 1 BOSS and [Plaintiff’s counsel and Plaintiff] sat there and said ‘NOTHING’ kept to themselves and FAILED to disclose a key information THAT [Plaintiff] HAS JUROR NO 1 BOSS ON HER FACEBOOK AND HIS SISTER … That’s public knowledge anyone can get.” Defendant argues that “JURROR NO 1 - SHOULD OF NEVER BEEN PICKED IF THAT WAS DISCLOSED.”
“A party seeking a new trial because of non-disclosure … during voir dire must do more than raise a speculative allegation that the juror’s possible bias may have influenced the outcome of the trial. Rather, ‘a party must first demonstrate that a juror failed to answer honestly a material question on voir dire, and then further show that a correct response would have provided a valid basis for a challenge for cause.’” Dall, 970 F.2d at 969 (quoting McDonough Power Equip., Inc. v. Greenwood, 464 U.S. 548, 556 (1984)). Additionally, the party “must ‘demonstrate actual prejudice or bias.’” Id. (quoting United States v. Aponte-Suarez, 905 F.2d 483, 492 (1st Cir.1990)). “This ...