United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING DEFENDANT JUSTIN
ROLLINS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW OR,
ALTERNATIVELY, FOR A NEW TRIAL
before the Court is a motion for judgment as a matter of law
or, alternatively, for a new trial  filed by Defendant
Justin Rollins ("Defendant Rollins")- Plaintiff
Rick Parker ("Plaintiff) has filed a response, and
Defendant Rollins has filed a reply. The matter is now ripe
for review. The Court has carefully considered Defendant
Rollins' arguments concerning his motion for judgment as
a matter of law or, alternatively, request for a new trial,
as well as attached documentation, the trial transcript, the
trial exhibits, and all authorities bearing on the matter.
The Court is of the opinion that none of Defendant
Rollins' arguments have merit and that the jury verdict
should stand, for the reasons stated below.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 Stan
50(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides in
pertinent part: "[N]o later than 28 days after the jury
was discharged[, ] the movant may file a renewed motion for
judgment as a matter of law and may include an alternative or
joint request for a new trial under Rule 59." Fed. R,
Civ. P. 50(b). Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure provides in pertinent part that "[t]he court
may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the
issues-and to any party- .. . after a jury 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). Such a motion "must be filed no later than
28 days after the entry of judgment, " Fed. R. Civ, P.
59(b). Because the instant motion for a new trial was filed
within 28 days of the entry of judgment, it shall be
construed as a Rule 59 motion. See, e.g., Komolafe v.
Dewease, 87 F.App'x 385, 2004 WL 304198, at *1 (5th
Cir. 2004) (per curiam) (citing Teal v. Eagle Fleet,
Inc., 933 F.2d 341, 347 n.3 (5th Cir. 1991)
(post-judgment motion for new trial and/or for relief from
judgment was properly considered under Rule 59 because it was
filed within the requisite Rule 59 time period)).
district court has discretion to grant a new trial under Rule
59(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when it is
necessary to do so 'to prevent an injustice.' "
Jones v. Ruiz, 478 F.App'x 834, 835 (5th Cir.
2012) (per curiam) (quoting United States v. Flores,
981 F.2d 231, 237 (5th Cir. 1993)). Although Rule 59(a) does
not state appropriate grounds for a new trial, "[a] new
trial may be appropriate if the verdict is against the weight
of the evidence, the amount awarded is excessive, or the
trial was unfair or marred by prejudicial error."
Scott v. Monsanto Co., 868 F.2d 786, 789 (5th Cir.
1989) (internal citation omitted). "Courts do not grant
new trials unless it is reasonably clear that prejudicial
error has crept into the record or that substantial justice
has not been done, and the burden of showing harmful error
rests on the party seeking the new trial." Sibley v.
Lemaire, 184 F.3d 481, 487 (5th Cir. 1999).
Analysis and Discussion
December 23, 2014, Plaintiff brought this civil rights action
against Defendants Mississippi Department of Public Safety;
Donnell Berry, Chief of the Mississippi Highway Patrol;
Rollins, Mississippi State Trooper; and Josh Boyd,
Mississippi State Trooper. Plaintiff asserted claims for
excessive force and unlawful seizure under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, gross negligence and reckless disregard under the
Mississippi Tort Claims Act, as well as common law assault
and battery and false arrest. Pretrial Order  ¶ 4.
23, 2015, upon Defendants' Mississippi Department of
Public Safety's and Donnell Berry's unopposed motion
to dismiss, the Court dismissed Defendants Mississippi
Department of Public Safety and Donnell Berry as parties due
to Eleventh Amendment immunity and failure to state a 42
U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Defendant Donnell Berry in
his individual capacity. The parties did not otherwise file
any dispositive motions in the case. Subsequently, the Court
entered the parties' Pretrial Order .
following facts were established by the Pretrial Order:
Plaintiff was arrested by State Trooper Rollins on June 28,
2013 and was subsequently charged with DUI refusal, resisting
arrest, littering, and no insurance. Pretrial Order 
¶ 9(a)(1)-(2). Trooper Rollins and Trooper Josh Boyd
were acting within the course and scope of their employment
with the Mississippi Highway Patrol during their encounter
with Plaintiff on June 28, 2013. Id. ¶ 9(a)(3).
case proceeded to trial on March 27, 2017. The parties agreed
to dismiss the state law claims; thus, the case proceeded to
trial on the Section 1983 excessive force and unlawful
seizure claims only. On March 28, 2017, the Court granted
Defendant Josh Boyd's motion for judgment as a matter of
law and entered judgment in his favor. See Ct.'s
Final J. & Order Granting Mot. J. Matter of Law  at
1. However, the Court denied Defendant Rollins' motion
for judgment as a matter of law. Later that same day, the
jury returned a verdict finding that Defendant Rollins used
excessive force and unlawfully seized Plaintiff; the jury
awarded Plaintiff damages against Defendant Rollins in the
amount of $200, 000.00.
April 25, 2017, Defendant Rollins filed the present motion
for judgment as a matter of law or, alternatively, for a new
trial . Defendant Rollins asserts essentially two grounds
for relief: (1) "[t]here is no legally sufficient basis
for a reasonable jury to find for Plaintiff. . . on his
claims that Defendant Rollins used excessive force or that
Defendant Rollins unlawfully arrested him"; and (2)
"[t]here was evident confusion on the part of the jury
as shown by the transcript excerpt. .. ." See
Def. Rollins' Mot. J. Matter of Law, or, Alternatively
for New Trial  ¶¶ 2-3. The Court examines each
argument in turn.
Sufficiency of Evidence
Defendant Rollins argues the verdict and judgment should be
set aside and judgment entered for Defendant Rollins due to
insufficient evidence of excessive force and unreasonable
seizure or that Defendant Rollins' conduct was
argues in response that the jury verdict was supported by
substantial evidence including the testimony of the parties
in the case sub judice. The Court finds Plaintiffs
arguments in this respect to be well taken. Evidence in the
record supports the jury's finding of excessive force and
establish a violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition on
excessive force, the plaintiff must
[show]:£(1) an injury that (2) resulted
directly and only from the use of force that was excessive to
the need, and (3) the use of force [ ] was objectively
unreasonable.' " See Mathews v,
Davidson, 674 F.App'x 394, 395 (5th Cir. 2017),
as revised (Jan. 9, 2017) (per curiam) (quoting
Bush v. Strain,513 F.3d 492, 500-01 (5th Cir.
2008)). Defendant Rollins does not make a specific argument
that there was insufficient evidence to find Defendant
Rollins liable on the excessive force claim. In any event,
Plaintiff presented evidence at trial that Defendant Rollins
stopped Plaintiff at a driver's license checkpoint on
Highway 25 in Itawamba County, asked him to step outside of
his vehicle, and initiated a struggle. Plaintiff testified at
trial that Defendant Rollins repeatedly squeezed the keys in
Plaintiffs pocket, put him in a head lock, took him to the
ground, put all of his weight on Plaintiff, forced his body
to the ground on gravel, and pushed his wrists toward his
shoulder blades, injuring his shoulder. See Trial
Tr. Excerpt  at 15-20. In addition, Plaintiff and
Defendant Rollins introduced ...