United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
STADTMUELLER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
October 24 and 25, 2016, a jury trial was held in this
matter. (Docket #60). On October 25, 2016, the jury returned
a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, Lori Heling
(“Heling”). (Docket #58). At the close of
Heling's evidence, and at the close of all the evidence,
the defendant Creditor's Collection Service, Inc.
(“CCS”) preserved motions for directed verdict.
The Court deferred ruling on those motions until after the
jury returned a verdict. (Docket #60). After receiving the
verdict, the Court informed the parties that the motions were
now active and set a briefing schedule. Id. On
November 4, 2016, CCS filed motions for judgment pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) 50(a)
and (b) and for a new trial under FRCP 59(a)(1). (Docket
#59). Heling submitted her response on November 14, 2016.
(Docket #61). CCS offered a reply on November 18, 2016.
(Docket #62). The motions are fully briefed, and for the
reasons explained below, they will be denied.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
50(a) allows a party to move for judgment on a particular
claim when 1) “a party has been fully heard on [the
claim] during a jury trial, ” and 2) “the court
finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally
sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the [non-moving]
party on that [claim.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1). FRCP
50(b) is simply a method to renew a FRCP 50(a) motion.
Id. 50(b). The Seventh Circuit instructs that
[i]n deciding a Rule 50 motion, the court construes the
evidence strictly in favor of the party who prevailed before
the jury and examines the evidence only to determine whether
the jury's verdict could reasonably be based on that
evidence. The court does not make credibility determinations
or weigh the evidence. Although the court reviews the entire
record, the court must disregard all evidence favorable to
the moving party that the jury [was] not required to believe.
Passananti v. Cook Cnty., 689 F.3d 655, 659 (7th
Cir. 2012) (citations and quotations omitted).
permits a party to seek a new trial “for any reason for
which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at
law in federal court.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1)(A). In
clearer terms, this means that “[a] new trial is
appropriate if the jury's verdict is against the manifest
weight of the evidence or if the trial was in some way unfair
to the moving party.” Venson v. Altamirano,
749 F.3d 641, 656 (7th Cir. 2014). For alleged instructional
errors, “[a] jury's answers to flawed special
verdict questions should stand if the answers can be
reconciled with the evidence and with one another in any
reasonable way, Medcom Holding [Co. v. Baxter
Travenol Labs., Inc.], 106 F.3d [1388, 1401-02 (7th Cir.
1997)], but that standard allows for judgment and
discretion.” Vojdani v. Pharmsan Labs, Inc.,
741 F.3d 777, 781-82 (7th Cir. 2013).
party's briefing cited a transcript of the trial, nor did
they provide one to the Court. Thus, the Court is left to
decide the motion based on its own recollection of the
evidence and that of the parties as presented in their
briefs. Nevertheless, the facts relevant to this Order are
limited and so they will be discussed as necessary along with
the Court's analysis. CCS challenges the jury's
answers to Special Verdict Questions Nos. 1, 3, and 4 (the
jury found in its favor on Question No. 2).
Verdict Question No. 3
first argument is that Heling did not carry her burden to
show that it failed to send the October 17, 2014 letter (the
“Letter”). (Docket #59 at 7-9). This burden was
established by the Court's ruling on summary judgment.
(Docket #43 at 12-15). The parties have presented arguments
as to the issue which the Court declined to reach in that
summary judgment ruling, namely whether Section 1692g(a)
mandates that the required notice be sent to a
consumer. See (Docket #61 at 3-8; Docket #62 at
summary judgment, the Court need not reach the issue here.
Viewing the evidence strictly in favor of Heling, and
determining only whether the jury's verdict
could be based on that evidence, the verdict must
stand. Heling adequately undermined CCS's exhibits and
the testimony of its employees such that the jury could have
reasonably disbelieved all of that evidence and found that
the Letter was not sent. The Court addresses each piece of
evidence in turn.
CCS offered Exhibit 11, which was purportedly a copy of the
Letter. The fact that CCS obtained that piece of paper and
brought it to trial has no bearing on whether any letter,
identical or otherwise, was actually sent on October 17,
2014. Similarly, CCS presented testimony that the Letter was
printed automatically by its computer system upon receipt of
Heling's debt for collection. ...