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American Steamship Co. v. Hallett Dock

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

May 31, 2013

AMERICAN STEAMSHIP CO., a New York corporation, and ARMSTRONG STEAMSHIP CO., a Delaware corporation, Plaintiffs,
v.
HALLETT DOCK CO., a Minnesota corporation, Defendant.

Brent L. Reichert, David E. Bland, Gerardo Alcazar, and Richard B. Allyn, Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi LLP, Counsel for Plaintiffs.

David R. Hornig and Guerric S.D. L. Russell, Nicoletti Hornig & Sweeney, and Scott A. Witty and John D. Kelly, Hanft Fride PA, Counsel for Defendant Hallett Dock Co.

MEMORANDUM OF LAW & ORDER

MICHAEL J. DAVIS, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Hallett Dock Company's Motion for a New Trial or, in the Alternative, to Amend the Judgment. [Docket No. 476]

This matter was tried before a jury and, on February 21, 2013, the jury returned its verdict. The jury found that Defendant Hallett Dock Company ("Hallett") breached its contract with Plaintiffs American Steamship Company and Armstrong Steamship Company (collectively, "ASC"), breached implied and express warranties, was liable for negligent misrepresentation, and was negligent, and that all of these breaches were a direct cause of the damage to the Walter J. McCarthy, Jr. ("McCarthy"). It found that Fraser Shipyards, Inc. ("Fraser") was negligent, but that its negligence was not a direct cause of damage to the McCarthy. It further found that ASC was not negligent. The jury awarded $4, 682, 322.55 in damages, and attributed 100% of the fault to Hallett. On February 25, 2013, the Court entered judgment on the jury's verdict.

Hallett now requests a new trial pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 50(b), 59(c), and 59(e). Alternatively, it requests that the Court amend the Judgment and reduce the award by $87, 678.90.

II. MOTION FOR A NEW TRIAL

Hallett moves for a new trial on four grounds.

A. Sufficiency of the Evidence

First, Hallett claims that there is insufficient evidence to support the jury's finding that ASC and Fraser were not liable for a portion of the damages. It claims that the jury erred in concluding that ASC was not negligent and in concluding that Fraser's negligence was not a direct cause of the holing of the McCarthy.

The Court has broad discretion in deciding whether to grant a new trial. Pulla v. Amoco Oil Co. , 72 F.3d 648, 656 (8th Cir. 1995). "A new trial is appropriate when the outcome is against the great weight of the evidence so as to constitute a miscarriage of justice." Boesing v. Spiess , 540 F.3d 886, 890 (8th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). In determining whether a new trial is warranted, 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).

Here, the Court presided over the in-depth trial of this case and has carefully reviewed the record. The Court concludes that the jury's verdict is just and is strongly supported by the evidence at trial. The Court is ...


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