United States District Court, D. Maryland, Northern Division
JOHN H. MACSHERRY, JR., Plaintiff,
SPARROWS POINT, LLC, COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT COMPANY, INC. and MICHAEL ROBERTS, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' RULE 50 MOTION FOR
JUDGMENT NOTWITHSTANDING THE VERDICT OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE,
FOR A NEW TRIAL, GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART AS
FRAMED DEFENDANTS' RULE 59 MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND THE
JUDGMENT OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, FOR A NEW TRIAL ON DAMAGES,
AMENDING THE JUDGMENT ORDER AND STAYING SUA SPONTE
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES AND
FREDERICK P. STAMP, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 50 and Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure Rule 59, defendants in the above-styled
civil action, Sparrows Point LLC (“SPLLC”),
Commercial Development Company, Inc. (“CDC”), and
Michael Roberts (“Roberts”) (collectively,
“defendants”), move for judgment notwithstanding
the verdict or, in the alternative, for a new trial (ECF No.
170), and also move, in the alternative, to alter or amend
the judgment or, in the alternative, for a new trial on
damages (ECF No. 171).
review of the fully briefed motions and the contentions of
the parties, and for the reasons that follow, defendants'
Rule 50 post-trial motion for judgment notwithstanding the
verdict, or in the alternative, for a new trial (ECF No. 170)
is denied, and defendants' Rule 59 post-trial motion to
alter or amend the judgment, or in the alternative, for a new
trial on damages (ECF No. 171) is granted in part and denied
in part as framed.
Macsherry, Jr., plaintiff, filed suit against defendants to
recover a commission of $825, 000.00 allegedly owed to him in
connection with the sale of commercial property located at
the Sparrows Point peninsula in Baltimore County, Maryland
for $110, 000, 000.00. This civil action went to trial and
the underlying facts are set forth in detail in this
Court's memorandum opinion and order denying
defendants' motion for summary judgment and
plaintiff's cross-motion for partial summary judgment.
See ECF No. 71.
first amended complaint (ECF No. 26), plaintiff's
operative pleading, includes claims for violation of
Maryland's Wage Payment and Collection Law
(“MWPCL”) (Count I), Md. Ann. Code Lab. &
Empl. §§ 3-501 et seq., breach of contract
(Count II), promissory estoppel (Count III), and quantum
meruit/unjust enrichment (Count IV)against all parties.
See ECF No. 26.
defendant Roberts' motion to dismiss plaintiff's
first amended complaint (ECF No. 29), only the MWPCL claim
remained pending against him at trial. See ECF No.
38. All claims remaining against Roberts, SPLLC and CDC were
tried before a jury from July 5, 2018 through July 13, 2018.
Defendants moved for summary judgment prior to trial and,
pursuant to Rule 50, moved for judgment during trial after
plaintiff's case-in-chief, and again after the close of
evidence. Defendants' motions were denied.
conclusion of a seven-day trial, the jury returned a verdict
for the plaintiff. ECF No. 158. Defendants now renew their
motions and contend that they are entitled to judgment on all
claims. In the alternative, if this Court declines to grant
judgment on defendants' motion notwithstanding the
verdict pursuant to Rule 50, defendants also move pursuant to
Rule 59. The post-trial motions now before this Court (ECF
Nos. 170, 171) were filed by defendants following entry of
the clerk's order of judgment (ECF No. 160) on the
jury's verdict. This Court entered an order granting the
parties' joint proposed order to extend the time for
plaintiff to respond to defendants' post-trial motions to
September 7, 2018, and for defendants to file replies to
plaintiff's responses to October 5, 2018. ECF No. 173.
upon consideration of defendants' motion to stay
enforcement of judgment pending the disposition of post-trial
motions (ECF No. 162), plaintiff's response in opposition
(ECF No. 168), and defendants' reply (ECF No. 176), this
Court entered an order confirming ruling in previous order
(ECF No. 175) granting in part and denying in part
defendants' motion to stay execution of judgment pending
the disposition of post-trial motions and directing
defendants to post bond. ECF No. 181. The fully briefed
motions are now ripe for decision.
Standard of Review
Legal Standard for Rule 50 Motion
Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 50 permits a court to enter
judgment as a matter of law where “a party has been
fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court
finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally
sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that
issue.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1). “Judgment as a
matter of law is properly granted if the nonmoving party
failed to make a showing on an essential element of his case
with respect to which he had the burden of proof.”
Russell v. Absolute Collection Servs., Inc., 763
F.3d 385, 391 (4th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks
omitted). On a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of
law, the court considers whether the jury's findings are
supported by substantial evidence. Konkel v. Bob Evans
Farms, Inc., 165 F.3d 275, 279 (4th Cir. 1999). In
entertaining a motion for judgment as a matter of law, the
court should review all of the evidence in the record.
Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prod., Inc., 530 U.S.
133, 150 (2000). In reviewing the evidence, the court may not
weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations, but
must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Id.; Fontenot v. Taser
Int'l, Inc., 736 F.3d 318, 332 (4th Cir. 2013).
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b):
If the court does not grant a motion for judgment as a matter
of law made under Rule 50(a), the court is considered to have
submitted the action to the jury subject to the court's
later deciding the legal questions raised by the motion. No.
later than 28 days after the entry of judgment - or if the
motion addresses a jury issue not decided by a verdict, no
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. In ruling on the renewed motion, the court
may: (1) allow judgment on the verdict, if the jury returned
a verdict; (2) order a new trial; or (3) direct the entry of
judgment as a matter of law.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b).
considering a Rule 50(b) motion, the district court is to
determine whether a jury, viewing the evidence in the light
most favorable to the non-movant, could have properly reached
the conclusion it did. Bryant v. Aiken Reg'l Med.
Ctrs. Inc., 333 F.3d 536, 543 (4th Cir. 2003).
Legal Standard for Rule 59 Motion
59(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides courts
with discretion, after a jury trial, to grant a new trial on
all or some of the 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). A court may
grant a new trial only if the verdict: (1) is against the
clear weight of the evidence; (2) is based upon false
evidence; or (3) “will result in a miscarriage of
justice, even though there may be substantial evidence which
would prevent the direction of a verdict.” Atlas
Food Sys. & Servs., Inc. v. Crane Nat'l Vendors,
Inc., 99 F.3d 587, 594 (4th Cir. 1996). The first two
grounds for a new trial require the court to make factual
determinations, while the third ground requires a policy
analysis under which the “judge's unique vantage
point and day-to-day experience with such matters lend
expertise.” Id. The decision to grant or deny
a new trial is within the sound discretion of the district
court, and the appellate court will respect that
determination absent an abuse of discretion. Id.
Rule 59(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court
may order a new trial nisi remittitur if it “concludes
that a jury award of compensatory damages is
excessive.” Jones v. Southpeak Interactive Corp. of
Delaware, 777 F.3d 658, 672 (4th Cir. 2015) (internal
quotation marks omitted). A court should order a new trial
nisi remittitur if “the jury's verdict is against
the weight of the evidence or based on evidence which is
false.” Sloane v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC,
510 F.3d 495, 502 (4th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks
omitted). Whether to grant such a new trial is
“entrusted to the sound discretion of the district
court.” Id. (internal quotation marks
Rule 59(e), the Rules of Civil Procedure provide several
methods by which judgments may be re-examined. Zinkand v.
Brown, 478 F.3d 634, 637 (4th Cir. 2007). One vehicle is
a motion to alter or amend under Rule 59(e). Id. The
purpose of Rule 59(e) is to “permit a district court to
correct its own errors, sparing the parties and the appellate
courts the burden of unnecessary appellate
proceedings.” Pac. Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat'l Fire
Ins. Co., 148 F.3d, 403 (4th Cir. 1998) (citation and
internal quotations omitted), cert. denied, 525 U.S.
1104 (1999). Rule 59(e) motions will be granted in three
circumstances: “(1) to accommodate an intervening
change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence
not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of
law or prevent manifest injustice.” Ingle ex rel.
Estate of Ingle v. Yelton, 439 F.3d 191, 197 (4th Cir.
2006) (citing Pac. Ins. Co., 148 F.3d at 403). It is
usually viewed as an extraordinary remedy that should be
applied sparingly. EEOC v. Lockheed Martin Corp.,
116 F.3d 110, 112 (4th Cir. 1997). Rule 59(e) motions may not
be used, however, to raise arguments which could have been
raised prior to the issuance of the judgment, nor may they be
used to argue a case under a novel legal theory that the
party had the ability to address in the first instance.
Pac. Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat'l Fire Ins. Co., 148
F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998).
Court notes that traditionally, decisions on “questions
of law” are “reviewable de novo, ”
decisions on “questions of fact” are
“reviewable for clear error, ” and decisions on
“matters of discretion” are “reviewable for
‘abuse of discretion.'” Highmark Inc. v.
Allcare Health Mgmt. Sys., Inc., 134 S.Ct. 1744, 1748
(2014) (citing Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552,
the trial and jury verdict in this civil action and entry of
the judgement order, defendants now move for judgment
notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for a new
trial (ECF No. 170), and also move, in the alternative, to
alter or amend the judgment or, in the alternative, for a new
trial on damages (ECF No. 171). This Court has reviewed the
fully briefed post-trial motions and has considered the
contentions of the parties. For the reasons that follow,
defendants' Rule 50 post-trial motion for judgment
notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for a new
trial (ECF No. 170) is denied, and defendants' Rule 59
post-trial motion to alter or ...