from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Indiana, Hammond Division. No. 09 C 87 - John E.
Martin, Magistrate Judge.
Kanne, and ROVNER, Circuit Judges, and Durkin, District
Durkin, District Judge.
Thorne has a property insurance policy with Member Select
Insurance Company. Thorne brought suit against Member Select
when it denied his claim for coverage after his house burned
down. A jury awarded Thorne $87, 000, and the district court
denied Member Select's motion for judgment as a matter of
law. Member Select appeals from that order.
house at 726 Arbogast Street in Griffith, Indiana, burned
down completely in February 2008. Thorne chose not to rebuild
the house. Member Select refused to cover the loss because it
determined that either Thorne or his brother (who was living
in the house and was the only person besides Thorne who had a
key) intentionally set the fire.
the jury's verdict in Thome's favor, Member Select
moved for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 50. Member Select argued: (1) there
was insufficient evidence for the jury to find that Thorne
was a resident of the house (as required for recovery under
the policy); and (2) there was insufficient evidence for the
jury to determine damages. Member Select appeals from the
district court's post-trial decision in Thome's favor
on those two issues. Member Select also argues that the
district court misinterpreted the policy's loss coverage
provision in evaluating whether the evidence was sufficient
to support the jury's damages award.
Standard of Review
review a district court's refusal to grant a Rule 50
motion for judgment as a matter of law de novo. See
Empress Casino Joliet Corp. v. Balmoral Racing Club,
Inc., 831 F.3d 815, 822 (7th Cir. 2016). "Judgment
as a matter of law is proper 'if a reasonable jury would
not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for
the party on that issue.'" Lawson v. Sun
Microsystems, Inc., 791 F.3d 754, 761 (7th Cir. 2015)
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1)). "We construe the trial
evidence 'strictly in favor of the party who prevailed
before the jury.'" Empress Casino, 831 F.3d
at 822 (quoting Passananti v. Cook County, 689 F.3d
655, 659 (7th Cir. 2012)). "Although we must determine
that more than 'a mere scintilla of evidence'
supports the verdict, we do not make credibility
determinations or weigh the evidence." May v.
Chrysler Grp., LLC, 716 F.3d 963, 971 (7th Cir. 2013)
(quoting Hossack v. Floor Covering Assoc. ofjoliet,
Inc., 492 F.3d 853, 859 (7th Cir. 2007)). "In other
words, our job is to decide whether a highly charitable
assessment of the evidence supports the jury's verdict or
if, instead, the jury was irrational to reach its
conclusion." May, 716 F.3d at 971. Rule 50(b)
permits us either to enter judgment for the trial loser or to
order a new trial.
policy requires the house to be Thome's
"residence" for him to be entitled to coverage for
its loss. Member Select argues that the evidence at trial was
insufficient for the jury to make that finding.
parties do not dispute that the factors relevant to
determining residence are: (1) Thome's physical presence
in the house; (2) whether Thorne had a subjective intent to
reside there; and (3) Thome's access to the house and its
contents. See Alexander v. Erie Ins. Exch., 982 F.2d
1153, 1159 (7th Cir. 1993). The district court instructed the
decision on Member Select's Rule 50 motion, the district
court summarized the evidence concerning Thome's
residence as follows:
[Thorne] testified that he intended to live at the Property.
He also testified that he kept almost all his personal
belongings at the Property, that his mail was delivered
there, and that he went there often, even if only to pick up
his mail. Furthermore, other than his brother, who had also
lived at [the] house, [Thorne] was the only person with keys
to the house. All this tends to show, ...