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Law Offices of Michael E. Douglas
P.O. Box 251551
Woodbury, Minnesota 55125-6551

 Saint Paul Lawyer


US District Court : 1983 | CIVIL PROCEEDURE - reasonable jury could find for plaintiff as it did

Charles F. Gill,
Civil No. 05-2366
Geoff Maciejewski, acting in
his individual capacity as an
officer of the University of
Minnesota Police Department.
Eric Hageman, Flynn, Gaskins & Bennett, L.L.P. for and on behalf of
Jennifer L. Frisch, Associate General Counsel, University of Minnesota for
and on behalf of Defendant.
This matter is before the Court upon the Defendants motion for judgment
as a matter of law (JMOL), collateral source set off or in the alternative for a
new trial.
1. Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law
The moving party bears a heavy burden on its motion for judgment as a
matter of law. Haynes v. Bee-Line Trucking Co., 80 F.3d 1235, 1238 (8th Cir.
1996)(citation omitted). In considering the motion, the Court must (1) view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party; (2) assume that all
conflicts in the evidence were resolved in favor of the prevailing party; (3) assume
as proved all facts that the prevailing partys evidence tended to prove; and (4)
give the prevailing party the benefit of all favorable inferences that may
reasonably be drawn from the facts proved. Id. After such consideration, the
court must deny the motion if reasonable people could differ as to the conclusions
to be drawn from the evidence. Id.
Defendant asserts that no reasonable jury could return a verdict in
Plaintiffs favor. Applying the above standard, the Court finds that Plaintiff
presented sufficient evidence to support his claims. Morgan Kirvida testified that
she observed the officer that was holding the pepper ball gun forcefully drop his
knee on Charlies side of his face. Hageman Aff, Ex. A p. 23. While there is no
direct evidence that Defendant kneed Plaintiff in the head on the night in
question, there is sufficient circumstantial evidence for a jury to reasonably find
that Defendant was that officer. Sufficient evidence was also presented on the
issue of causation.
Defendant further argues that Plaintiff did not present evidence that he
sustained a constitutionally cognizable injury. An actual injury must be shown
to support an excessive force claim under the Fourth Amendment. Hanig v. Lee,
415 F.3d 822, 824 (8th Cir. 2005) (citing Dawkins v. Graham, 50 F.3d 532, 535 (8th
Cir. 1995)). The Eighth Circuit has found that evidence of bruising, facial
lacerations and transport to the hospital by ambulance sufficiently supports an
excessive force claim. Dawkins, 50 F.3d at 535. See also, Lambert v. City of
Dumas, 187 F.3d 931, 936 (8th Cir. 1999) (small cut of lateral eyelid and small
scrapes of right posterior knee and upper calf sufficient to support excessive force
claim). In this case, Plaintiff presented evidence that he suffered a concussion,
bleeding on the brain and facial fractures. These injuries strongly support his
excessive force claim.
Defendant argues a constitutionally cognizable injury is one that causes a
permanent impairment, wage loss or loss of earning capacity. Neither Lambert or
Dawkins include these additional requirements. The cases cited by Defendant in
support concerned cases in which the asserted injury was caused by handcuffing.
Noting that handcuffing inevitably involves some use of force, the court took
into consideration the fact that the plaintiff did not suffer a permanent injury to
his shoulder to determine whether or not the injury suffered was de minimis.
Wertisch v. Krueger, 433 F.3d 1062, 1067 (8th Cir. 2006). See also, Crumley v.
City of St. Paul, 324 F.3d 1003 (8th Cir. 2003) (handcuffing) ; Foster v.
Metropolitan Airports Commn, 914 F.2d 1076 (8th Cir. 1990) (handcuffing). As
the asserted injury in this case was not related to handcuffing, and because
Plaintiffs injury was severe, any references to permanence of injury or loss of
earning capacity need not be taken into consideration in determining whether the
Plaintiff suffered an actual injury.
2. Collateral Source Cutoff
Defendant argues that pursuant to Minn. Stat. 548.36, he is entitled to a
set off for collateral source payments made on Plaintiffs behalf by his health
insurer. Plaintiff responds that as this case was brought pursuant to federal law,
the state collateral source statute does not apply. Rather, the common law
collateral source doctrine applies to Section 1983 claims. The Court notes that
Defendant did not cite to any authority directly supporting this argument.
The purpose of the collateral source rule is to prevent the tortfeasor from
paying twice. Perry v. Larson, 794 F.2d 279, 286 (7th Cir. 1986) (citing Thomas v.
Shelton, 740 F.2d 478, 484 (7th Cir. 1984)). Accordingly, the Court finds
Defendant is not entitled to a set off for payments made by Plaintiffs health
3. Motion to Set Aside Verdict and for a New Trial
Defendant moves for a new trial pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 59. A motion
for a new trial is appropriately granted if the verdict is against the weight of the
evidence and if allowing it to stand would result in a miscarriage of justice. In re
Air Crash at Little Rock, Ark., 291 F.3d 503, 508-09 (8th Cir. 2002). To determine
whether a verdict is against the weight of the evidence, the court may weigh the
evidence, disbelieve witnesses, and grant a new trial even where there is
substantial evidence to sustain the verdict. White v. Pence, 961 F.2d 776, 780
(8th Cir. 1992).
[T]he true standard for granting a new trial on the basis of the weight of
the evidence is simply one which measures the result in terms of whether a
miscarriage of justice has occurred. When through judicial balancing the
trial court determines that the first trial has resulted in a miscarriage of
justice, the court may order a new trial, otherwise not.
Id. (citation omitted).
Defendant argues he is entitled to a new trial based on erroneous jury
instructions, and the erroneous exclusion or admission of evidence. The Court
considered these issues prior to, and during trial, and Defendant has not
demonstrated that its previous rulings constitute a manifest error of law. See,
Hagerman v. Yukon Energy Corp., 839 F.2d 407, 414 (8th Cir.) cert. denied, 488 U.S.
820 (1988) (standard for motions for reconsideration).
Applying the standard above, the Court finds that a new trial is not
warranted in this case.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants Motion for Judgment as a Matter
of Law, Collateral Source Set Off or in the alternative a New Trial [Doc. No. 70] is
Date: September 18, 2007
s /Michael J. Davis
Michael J. Davis
United States District Court


  What day were you injured?

  / /

  What caused your injuries?
Traffic/Bicycle Accident
Work-Related Injury
Wrongful Death
Dog Bite
Slip and Fall

  How have your injuries affected

  your life?


  What kinds of medical care
  professionals have you seen?


  What has your treatment cost?


  Is Insurance Involved?
My insurance may cover

Someone else's insurance
        may cover this.

I already filed a claim.
I rejected a settlement

I accepted a settlement

  Were there any witnesses?
Bystanders Witnessed This.
Police Responded and Filed
        a Police Report

Police Responded but Did
        Not File a Police Report



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