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Swope v. Oneida School District

United States District Court, D. Idaho

May 7, 2019

TIMOTHY SWOPE and MARLA SWOPE, individually and on behalf of B.S., and DENISE COOMBS, individually and on behalf of O.C., Plaintiffs,
v.
ONEIDA SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 351, a county school district; DAVID RISENMAY, in his individual and official capacities; TERRI SORENSEN, in her individual and official capacities, and KERRY EVANS, in her individual and official capacities, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          DAVID C. NYE, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50. Defendants raised this motion on May 6, 2019, following the conclusion of Plaintiffs' case in chief. After hearing argument from both sides, the Court took the motion under advisement. As set forth more fully below, the Court GRANTS in PART and DENIES in PART Defendants' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, and defers ruling on any other claims until the conclusion of trial.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A general background of this case is set forth in Judge Mark. W. Bennett's prior Order. Dkt. 80, at 5-21. The Court incorporates that background by reference here.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Motions for judgment as a matter of law are properly brought under Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 50(a) reads, in part:

         If a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue, the court may:

(A) resolve the issue against the party; and
(B) grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against the party on a claim or defense that, under the controlling law, can be maintained or defeated only with a favorable finding on that issue.
(2) A motion for judgment as a matter of law may be made at any time before the case is submitted to the jury.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a).

         “Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate when the evidence presented at trial permits only one reasonable conclusion.” Torres v. City of Los Angeles, 548 F.3d 1197, 1205 (9th Cir.2008) (internal 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.” Id. (Internal citation omitted); see also Summers v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 508 F.3d 923, 926 (9th Cir. 2007) (“Rule 50(a) . . . allows a court to remove issues- claims, defenses, or entire cases-from the jury when there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis to support a particular outcome.”) (punctuation and citations omitted).

         Evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, with all reasonable inferences drawn in favor of that party. Torres, 548 F.3d at 1205-06. Judgment as a matter of law is not appropriate if conflicting inferences may be drawn from the facts. LaLonde v. Cnty. of Riverside, 204 F.3d 947, 959 (9th Cir.2000).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Defendants' moved for judgment as a matter of law on most of Plaintiffs' claims. Other than the specific claims analyzed below, the Court defers ruling on Plaintiffs' other claims until the conclusion of trial.

         A. Federal Claims

         As an initial matter, the Court notes that Judge Bennett's prior order (Dkt. 80, at 103-07) found that Defendants Risenmay, Sorensen, and Evans could not be held individually liable on Plaintiffs' federal claims. That decision stands, and federal claims against these Defendants in their individual capacity will not be submitted to the jury.

         As it relates to Plaintiffs' federal claims against the District, the Court defers ruling on Defendants' Motion until the conclusion of trial.

         B. Child Abuse

         Plaintiffs' Child Abuse claims are brought under Idaho Code § 6-1701. This provision creates four tort causes of action in child abuse cases, defining them by incorporating criminal statutes by reference. In this case, Plaintiffs allege that the District committed the tort of injury to a child under Idaho Code § 6-1701(4), which defines the ...


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