Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Basra v. Ecklund Logistics, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

November 21, 2017

INDERJEET BASRA, individually and as Personal Representative for the estate of Atinderpal Singh; and DILSHAAN S. REHAL, by and through his next friend Inderjeet Basra; Plaintiffs,
v.
ECKLUND LOGISTICS, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Laurie Smith Camp Chief United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law or, in the alternative, Motion for New Trial, ECF No. 193, filed by Defendant Ecklund Logistics, Inc. (Ecklund). Also before the Court is Ecklund's Motion to Extend Time to Post Supersedeas Bond, ECF No. 214. For the reasons stated below, the Motions will be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Inderjeet Basra and Dilshaan Rehal brought a negligence action against Ecklund for the death of their husband and father, Atinderpal Singh. Plaintiffs claimed Ecklund was vicariously liable for the negligence of its employed truck driver, Freddie Galloway, as well as for its own negligent failure to train, supervise, monitor, and manage Galloway. They also claimed punitive damages. Ecklund was granted summary judgment on Plaintiffs' negligent training, supervision, monitoring, and management claim and on the issue of punitive damages. Memorandum and Order, ECF No. 123. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' remaining negligence and vicarious liability claim was tried to a jury and Ecklund asserted the affirmative defense of comparative negligence.

         The evidence showed that Singh's tractor rear-ended the left side of Galloway's trailer in the right-hand eastbound lane of Interstate 80 near York, Nebraska, at about 4:30 p.m. on August 8, 2012. Galloway had slowed his tractor-trailer to about five miles an hour after he received notice over his radio that there was a fire a few miles ahead in the median between the eastbound and westbound lanes. The police officers at the scene of the fire testified that traffic was moving at interstate speeds and vehicles were using both eastbound lanes. Dale Bennett was driving the tractor-trailer immediately in front of Galloway and he testified that his speed was about forty to forty-five miles an hour, though Plaintiffs' and Ecklund's experts both opined that Bennett was likely travelling less than forty miles an hour. Neither Galloway nor Bennett recall seeing any emergency personnel in the median before the collision.

         Bennett and Galloway both testified that they illuminated the four-way flashers on their trailers to warn following traffic of their reduced speeds, but Plaintiffs presented post-accident video evidence that contradicted Galloway's testimony. Evidence was then admitted, over Ecklund's objection, demonstrating that Galloway was in violation of federal regulations restricting the number of hours a truck driver may drive in a given time period; he was in possession of a duplicate logbook; and he was talking on a hands-free cellular Bluetooth device at the time of the collision. After Singh's tractor impacted Galloway's trailer, it continued down the eastbound lanes and collided with Bennett's trailer.

         On August 28, 2017, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs and against Ecklund and awarded $2, 250, 000 in damages. The jury found the amount of negligence attributable to Ecklund's truck driver, Galloway, was 55% and the amount of negligence attributable to Plaintiffs' decedent, Singh, was 45%. Thus, Plaintiffs' damages were reduced by 45% and judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiffs in the amount of $1, 237, 500. Judgment, ECF No. 189.

         Ecklund asks the Court to grant its renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law for the reasons asserted at trial. Alternatively, Ecklund asks the Court to grant its motion for a new trial.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b) provides that “[n]o later than 28 days after the entry of judgment . . . 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). “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.”

Id. “If the court grants a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, it must also conditionally rule on any motion for a new trial by determining whether a new trial should be granted if the judgment is later vacated or reversed.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(c)(1).

         “Rule 50(b) provides for post-trial renewal of a Rule 50(a) trial motion for judgment as a matter of law, ” and “[a] court reviewing a Rule 50(b) motion is limited to consideration of only those grounds advanced in the original, Rule 50(a) motion.” Nassar v. Jackson, 779 F.3d 547, 551 (8th Cir. 2015) (citing Graham Constr. Servs. v. Hammer & Steel Inc., 755 F.3d 611, 617-18 (8th Cir. 2014)). “Judgment as a matter of law is warranted only when no reasonable juror, taking all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the opposing party, could find against the movant.” Estate of Snyder v. Julian, 789 F.3d 883, 887 (8th Cir. 2015) (citing Brawner v. Allstate Indem. Co., 591 F.3d 984, 986 (8th Cir. 2010); Townsend v. Bayer Corp., 774 F.3d 446, 456 (8th Cir. 2014) (“A grant of [judgment as a matter of law] is proper only if the evidence viewed [favorably to the prevailing party at trial] would not permit reasonable jurors to differ as to the conclusions that could be drawn.”). “In deciding whether to grant judgment as a matter of law, [courts] may not weigh the credibility of evidence, and conflicts in the evidence must be resolved in favor of the verdict.” S. Wine and Spirits of Nev. v. Mountain Valley Spring Co., LLC, 646 F.3d 526, 533 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing Schooley v. Orkin Extermination Co., 502 F.3d 759, 764 (8th Cir. 2007)).

         “A new trial may be granted on all or some issues ‘after a jury trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court.'” Stults v. Am. Pop Corn Co., 815 F.3d 409, 414 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1)(A)). “A new trial is appropriate when the first trial, through a verdict against the weight of the evidence, an excessive damage award, or legal errors at trial, resulted in a miscarriage of justice.” Gray v. Bicknell, 86 F.3d 1472, 1480 (8th Cir. 1996); see also Trickey v. Kaman Insus. Techs. Corp., 705 F.3d 788, 807 (8th Cir. 2013). “With respect to legal errors, a ‘miscarriage of justice' does not result whenever there are inaccuracies or errors at trial; instead, the party seeking a new trial must demonstrate that there was prejudicial error.” Trickey, 705 F.3d at 807 (citing Buchholz v. Rockwell Int'l Corp., 120 F.3d 146, 148 (8th Cir. 1997)).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Judgment as a Matter of Law

         At trial, Ecklund made its Rule 50(a) motion on the grounds that the evidence established Plaintiffs' decedent, Singh, was negligent as a matter of law and there was no evidence that Ecklund's truck driver, Galloway, was negligent. ECF No. 202, Page ID 7142-43. The motion was denied and Ecklund has renewed its motion under Rule 50(b).

         First, Ecklund asks the Court to grant judgment as a matter of law in its favor pursuant to the Nebraska “range of vision” rule. In Nebraska, a “motorist is deemed negligent as a matter of law if he or she operates a motor vehicle in such a manner as to be unable to stop or turn aside without colliding with an object or obstruction in the motorist's path within his or her range of vision.” Traphagan v. Mid-Am. Traffic Mktg., 555 N.W.2d 778, 782 (Neb. 1996) (quoting Nickell v. Russell, 525 N.W.2d 203, 208 (Neb. 1995)). As the Court explained in its previous Memorandum and Order on summary judgment, the range of vision rule would establish Singh's negligence, but it does not establish Galloway's lack of negligence or the comparative negligence attributable to Singh and Galloway. Memorandum and Order, ECF No. 123, Page ID 4316. At trial, Plaintiffs conceded Singh was negligent and the jury ultimately found that Singh was negligent. Trial Transcript, ECF No. 202, Page ID 7161; Verdict Form, ECF No. 187. Thus, it is unnecessary for the Court to apply the range of vision rule, post-trial, and Ecklund is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law thereunder. See Traphagan, 555 N.W.2d at 783 (explaining that a plaintiff's negligence under the range of vision rule “does not automatically equate with negligence that equals or exceeds the defendant's”).

         Second, Ecklund asks the Court to grant judgment as a matter of law in its favor based on the sufficiency of the evidence at trial. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs because it found that the comparative negligence attributable to Galloway exceeded that of Singh. Verdict Form, ECF No. 187 (finding Singh 45% negligent and Galloway 55% ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.