United States District Court, D. Montana, Helena Division
L. Christensen, Chief District Judge United States District
trial was held in this matter in November 2017. The Court
granted Defendants' Rule 50 motion on Count 4 as to Lewis
and Clark County, Count 11 as to Sheriff Dutton, Count 1 as
to Defendant West, and Count 10 as to Ferguson, Bulson, Swain
and West. The Court denied the motion on Count 2 as to Swain
and Count 9 as to Swain, Hawthrone, and Merritt. The matter
went to the jury on the remaining claims and on November 27,
2017, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Defendants.
Duane Belanus has now filed the following post-trial motions:
(1) Rule 48(b) Motion (Doc. 232); (2) Motion for Judgment
Notwithstanding Jury Verdict (Doc. 233); (3) Motion for New
Trial (Doc. 234); (4) Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law;
(Doc. 235); and a Rule 60(b) Motion (Doc. 236). The motions
will be denied.
first motion, Mr. Belanus seeks leave pursuant to Local Rule
48.1(b) to interview the trial jurors. Mr. Belanus does not
provide an affidavit showing good cause to interview jurors
and seeks prohibited testimony in violation of Rule 606 of
the Federal Rules of Evidence.
motion to interview jurors will be denied.
Rule 59 and 60 Motions
Belanus filed four separate motions seeking to overturn the
jury verdict in this case. Although titled differently, all
four motions must be considered under Rules 59 and/or 60 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which allow a party to
seek post-judgment relief from the Court.
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs motions for
new trial and motions to alter or amend a judgment. Rule
59(a) states, "A new trial may be granted... in an
action in which there has been a trial by jury, for any of
the reasons for which new trials have heretofore been granted
in actions at law in the courts of the United States."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1). "Since specific grounds for a
motion to amend or alter are not listed in the rule, the
district court enjoys considerable discretion in granting or
denying the motion." Allstate Ins. Co. v.
Herron, 634 F.3d. 1101, 1111 (9th Cir. 2011) (internal
citation omitted). These include verdicts against the weight
of the evidence, damages that are excessive, and trials that
were not fair to the moving party. Molski v. M.J. Cable,
Inc., 481 F.3d 724, 729 (9th Cir. 2007); see also
Passantino v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Prods.,
212 F.3d 493, 510 n.15 (9th Cir. 2000) ("The trial court
may grant a new trial only if the verdict is contrary to the
clear weight of the evidence, is based upon false or
perjurious evidence, or to prevent a miscarriage of
justice.") (citation omitted). A Rule 59 motion
"should not be granted, absent highly unusual
circumstances, unless the district court is presented with
newly discovered evidence, committed clear error, or if there
is an intervening change in the controlling law." 389
Orange St. Partners v. Arnold, 179 F.3d 656, 665
(9th Cir. 1999).
the filing of a Rule 59 motion by the party against whom a
verdict has been returned, the district court has "the
duty ... to weigh the evidence as [the court] saw it, and to
set aside the verdict of the jury, even though supported by
substantial evidence, where, in [the court's]
conscientious opinion, the verdict is contrary to the clear
weight of the evidence." Murphy v. City of Long
Beach, 914 F.2d 183, 187 (9th Cir. 1990) (quoting
Moist Cold Refrigerator Co. v. Lou Johnson Co., 249
F.2d 246, 256 (9th Cir. 1957)). "[E]rroneous jury
instructions, as well as the failure to give adequate
instructions, are also bases for a new trial. Murphy, 914
F.2d at 187.
60(b) "provides for reconsideration only upon a showing
of[:] (1) mistake, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly
discovered evidence; (3) fraud; (4) a void judgment; (5) a
satisfied or discharged judgment; or (6) 'extraordinary
circumstances' which would justify relief."
Fuller v. M.G. Jewelry, 950 F.2d 1437, 1442 (9th
Cir. 1991) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)).
amending and reconsidering a judgment after entry constitute
"extraordinary" remedies that should be used
sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of
judicial resources. Herron, 634 F.3d at 1111; Kona
Enters, v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th
root of most of Mr. Belanus's arguments is that the
Court's Final Instruction No. 10 utilized the wrong model
jury instruction and therefore provided the jury the wrong
standard on his failure to protect claim. He is incorrect.
Specifically, Mr. Belanus argues that the Court erred in
utilizing Ninth Circuit Model Instruction No. 9.27 ...