United States District Court, D. Maryland
Xinis United States District Judge.
are Defendants' motion for a new trial or remittitur (ECF
No. 137) and Plaintiffs motion for attorneys' fees (ECF
No. 133). The issues are fully briefed and the Court now
rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 because no hearing is
necessary. For the reasons stated below, Defendants'
Motion is DENIED and Plaintiffs Motion is GRANTED in part.
Darren Kevin Jones ("Plaintiff or
"'Jones") filed his 42 U.S.C. § 1983
action and related Maryland state law claims against Prince
George's County police officers Joseph Bunce, Gregory
Powell, and Gary Allen, claiming that on April 5, 2014, he
was unjustifiably shot by Officers Allen and Powell. ECF No.
1. On September 15, 2016, the Court granted summary judgment
in the Defendants' favor, dismissing Plaintiffs claims of
malicious prosecution and all claims against Defendant Bunce.
ECF Nos. 53, 54. The Court denied Defendants" motion for
summary judgment as to Plaintiffs claims of excessive force,
battery and wanton negligence. See ECF Nos. 53, 54.
Trial commenced on October 25, 2016. During trial, Plaintiff
dismissed all remaining Maryland state law claims, leaving
only the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim of excessive force for
the jury's deliberation.
to the evidence presented at trial, on April 5, 2014,
Plaintiff accompanied Carlos Barksdale
("Barksdale") to a residence located at 8610 Temple
Hills Drive in Clinton, Maryland for the purpose of
retrieving an all-terrain vehicle which Plaintiff intended to
borrow. The residence was that of Andrea Battle
(•'Battle"), the Barksdale's estranged
girlfriend and the mother of Barksdale's child. Barksdale
drove to Battle's home in a black Honda with Plaintiff in
the front passenger seat. When Battle noticed that Barksdale
was on her property, she telephoned the police.
Allen and Powell responded to this service call for a
purported burglary at the residence. After parking across the
street from the residence, Defendants walked towards the
house and saw Plaintiff moving towards the Honda that
Barksdale had parked in the driveway. Allen and Powell
commanded Plaintiff to stop. Plaintiff did not heed the
Officers' commands and instead jumped into the front
passenger seat as Barksdale drove out of the driveway and
down the street.
testified that Barksdale drove the vehicle toward the
officers at least initially, and that Officer Allen had been
clipped by the car as it drove away. The undisputed physical
evidence revealed that the Officers fired on the vehicle, and
at least some of the bullets entered the car as it was moving
away from Defendants. Plaintiff was shot four times, with one
bullet entering through his back, and others hitting his hand
and the side of his leg.
returned to their police vehicle and chased Barksdale's
car, but eventually lost sight of it. Barksdale dropped off
Plaintiff at a nearby bank parking lot where Plaintiffs
friends were waiting for him. Barksdale then drove away and
was not apprehended by law enforcement at that time.
Plaintiff testified that as he exited the vehicle at the
bank, he had serious trouble breathing, was unable to walk,
and believed that he was dying. Plaintiffs friends drove him
to the hospital where he was treated and placed in police
hospital, Plaintiff was immediately stabilized, then had to
undergo exploratory surgery to his abdomen as well as
reconstructive surgery to his hand. Doctors Christine
Trankiem and Derek Masden both testified at length regarding
the nature and extent of Plaintiff s injuries, the period of
recovery, and the physical damage that Plaintiff endured. In
addition, the jury observed Plaintiffs permanent scars to his
hand, abdomen, flank and leg.
also testified to his pain and suffering as a result of the
incident and during his recovery, which included battling
insomnia, nightmares, and depression. Plaintiffs girlfriend
testified to caring for Plaintiff following his physical
injuries and corroborated Plaintiffs mental anguish stemming
from the shooting.
jury returned a verdict finding both Defendants liable for
using excessive force against Plaintiff in violation of 42
U.S.C. § 1983. See Jury Verdict, ECF No. 129.
The jury awarded $601, 234.18 in compensatory damages and no
punitive damages. Id. Judgment was entered on
November 16, 2016 against Defendants Allen and Powell,
jointly and severally, in the amount of $601, 234.18 pursuant
to Federal Rule of Procedure 54(b). ECF No. 132.
now move the Court for a new trial and, alternatively, for
remittitur of the jury award pursuant to Rule 59 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff moves for
attorneys' fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The
Court will address the motions in turn.
Defendant's Motion for a New Trial
a jury trial, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a) allows
the court to grant a new trial on all or some issues
"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). "Because every litigant is
entitled to one fair trial, not two, the decision of whether
to grant or deny a motion for a new trial lies within the
discretion of the district court." Wallace v.
Poulos, 861 F.Supp.2d 587, 599 (D. Md. 2012) (internal
citations and quotation marks omitted). See also King v.
McMillan, 594 F.3d 301, 314 (4th Cir. 2010). The court
must exercise its discretion to grant a new trial only if the
verdict "(1) is against the clear weight of the
evidence, (2) is based upon evidence which is false, or (3)
will result in a miscarriage of justice, even though there
may be substantial evidence which would prevent the direction
of a verdict." Wallace, 861 F.Supp.2d at 599
(citing Knussman v. Maryland, 272 F.3d 625, 639 (4th
Cir. 2001)). Such a motion should be granted only when it
"is reasonably clear that prejudicial error has crept
into the record or that substantial justice has not been
done." Pathways Psychosocial v. Town o/Leonardtown,
Md., 223 F.Supp.2d 699, 706 (D. Md. 2002).
The Jury Instruction on Seizure
first challenge the Court's jury instruction on seizure.
At the outset, the Court notes that Defendants did not object
to the instruction they now challenge. See Oct. 28,
2016 Charging Conference Tr.. ECF No. 152 at 28-32; Oct. 31,
2016 Charging Conference Tr., ECF No. 153 at 4-10.
Preservation of an objection requires the party to state
"distinctly the matter objected to and the grounds for
the objection" on the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 51(c).
Accord Maltison v. Dallas Carrier Corp., 947 F.2d
95, 112 (4th Cir. 1991) ("[T]o preserve an objection to
the instructions to the jury, a party is required to point
out specifically the nature of the objection."). While
"a formal exception to a ruling or order is
unnecessary... [and] a party need only state the action that
it wants the court to take or objects to, along with the
grounds for the request or objection." Fed.R.Civ.P. 46,
the party still must make the district court "fully
aware" of the party's position. City of
Richmond, Va. v. Madison Mgmt. Grp., Inc., 918 F.2d 438,
453 (4th Cir. 1990). Failure to object to issues relating to
jury instructions results in a waiver of those objections for
the purposes of a motion for new trial and appeal.
Id. at 453-54; cf. Belk, Inc. v. Meyer Corp.,
U.S., 679 F.3d 146, 154 n.6 (4th Cir. 2012), as
amended (M&y 9, 2012) (finding appellant
"waived its challenge to any jury instructions ... by
failing to preserve the issue for appellate review by
neglecting to make timely and sufficient objections to the
court's charge below.").
now claim that the jury instruction on seizure was erroneous.
Notably, throughout the trial, Plaintiff argued that the
issue of seizure was a question of law for the Court to
decide rather than the jury, see e.g., Oct. 31, 2016
Charging Conference Tr., ECF No. 153 at 10. Consistent with
the Court's views, Defendants contend that whether
Plaintiff was seized, thus triggering his Fourth Amendment
rights, was a question of fact for jury determination.
See e.g., Trial Tr., ECF No. 150 at 79-80; ECF No.
152 at 24-27. The Court accordingly granted ...