United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
C. Nye U.S. District Court Judge.
matter comes before the Court on post-trial Motions filed by
both parties. Plaintiff Ross Hathaway has filed a Motion for
Entry of Partial Judgment and to Set ReTrial of the ADA
Claims. Dkt. 109. Defendant Idaho Pacific Corporation
(“Idaho Pacific”) has filed a Motion for Judgment
as a Matter of Law on All Claims, or in the Alternative,
Motion for a New Trial on Plaintiff's Claim for
Termination in Violation of Public Policy. Dkt. 107. Having
reviewed the record, the Court finds that the facts and legal
arguments are adequately presented in the briefs.
Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and
because the Court finds that the decisional process would not
be significantly aided by oral argument, the Court decides
the Motion on the record without oral argument. Dist. Idaho
Loc. Civ. R. 7.1(d)(2)(ii). For the reasons set forth below,
the Court finds good cause to DENY the Motions and order a
new trial on all claims.
five-day jury trial was held in this employment
discrimination case in mid-December 2017. The Court submitted
three claims to the jury via a special verdict form: (1)
discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”); (2) retaliation under the ADA; and (3)
wrongful discharge under Idaho state law. During
deliberations, the Jury sent a note to the Court indicating
that its members had “reached a point of aggressive
disagreement.” In response, the Court gave the Jury an
Allen instruction. The Jury then returned to its
hours later, the Jury sent another note to the Court stating
that it had reached a “unanimous decision on only one
claim” and that it was unable to agree on the other two
claims. The Jury asked if it had to reach a decision on all
three claims and if the Court could rule on the other two
claims. The Court questioned the Jury as to whether they were
willing to continue deliberating. After indicating that
further deliberation would not be helpful, the Court
permitted the Jury to return a verdict on the sole claim on
which it was able to reach a unanimous decision. The Jury
found in favor of Hathaway on the Idaho wrongful discharge
claim and awarded him $34, 302 in lost wages. The Jury did
not answer any of the questions on the verdict form regarding
the ADA retaliation claims. As to the ADA discrimination
claim, the Jury determined that Hathaway had a disability and
that he was a qualified individual under the ADA. However,
the Jury failed to answer any other questions regarding the
ADA discrimination claims.
Court reserved ruling on the impact of the partial verdict
until after considering any post-trial motions. Those motions
have now been filed and fully briefed.
Idaho Pacific's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of
Law Judgment as a matter of law, under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 50(b), is appropriate when “the
evidence permits only one reasonable conclusion, and that
conclusion is contrary to the jury's verdict.”
E.E.O.C. v. Go Daddy Software, Inc., 581 F.3d 951,
961 (9th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). Thus, “[a]
motion for a judgment as a matter of law is properly granted
only if no reasonable juror could find in the non-moving
party's favor.” Torres v. City of Los
Angeles, 548 F.3d 1197, 1205 (9th Cir. 2008) (citation
omitted). The Court must view the evidence “in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party, with all
reasonable inferences drawn in favor of that party.”
Id. at 1205-06.
“[a] Rule 50(b) motion for judgment as a matter of law
is not a freestanding motion. Rather, it is a renewed Rule
50(a) motion.” Go Daddy Software,
Inc., 581 F.3d at 961. The Ninth Circuit has
explained the Rule 50 scheme as follows:
Under Rule 50, a party must make a Rule 50(a) motion for
judgment as a matter of law before a case is submitted to the
jury. If the judge denies or defers ruling on the motion, and
if the jury then returns a verdict against the moving party,
the party may renew its motion under Rule 50(b). Because it
is a renewed motion, a proper post-verdict Rule 50(b) motion
is limited to the grounds asserted in the pre-deliberation
Rule 50(a) motion. Thus, a party cannot properly raise
arguments in its post-trial motion for judgment as a matter
of law under Rule 50(b) that it did not raise in its
preverdict Rule 50(a) motion.
Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Pacific did not make a Rule 50(a) motion for judgment as a
matter of law before the Court submitted the case to the
jury. Idaho Pacific argues that, despite this failure, it is
not barred from seeking judgment as a matter of law under a
special exception. The Ninth Circuit has held that an
exception to this Rule 50(b) requirement applies when
judgment was entered in accordance with a special verdict
form and the motion for judgment as a matter of law
challenges “the consistency of the answers” in
the special verdict, and “not to the sufficiency of
evidence supporting a general verdict.” Pierce v.
S. Pac. Transp. Co., 823 F.2d 1366, 1369 (9th Cir.
Pacific's motion for judgment as a matter of law does not
challenge the consistency of the Jury's answers on the
special verdict form. Indeed, the Jury's answers were not
“irreconcilably inconsistent.” See Id.
Nevertheless, Idaho Pacific argues that this exception
“is clearly applicable where a jury simply fails to
respond to questions on a special verdict form.” Dkt.
107-1, at 3. Idaho Pacific has failed to cite any legal
authority reciting such an exception or any cases whose
circumstances mirror those currently before the Court. Idaho
Pacific does cite Forro Precision, Inc. v. International
Business Machines Corporation, 673 F.2d 1045, 1058 (9th
Cir. 1982). In that case, “[a]fter the jury had
deadlocked on [the plaintiff's] antitrust claims, [the
defendant] moved for entry of judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P.
50(b).” Id. The district court then granted
the defendant judgment as a matter of law on those claims and
the Ninth Circuit affirmed. Id. at 1061. While
Forro is somewhat similar to this case, it gives no
indication of whether the defendant filed a Rule 50(a) motion
before the district court submitted the case to the jury.
Idaho Pacific also cites to Geo. M. Martin Company v.
Alliance Machine SystemsInternational LLC, 634
F.Supp.2d 1024, 1027 (N.D. Cal. 2008). ...