United States District Court, D. Nebraska
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,
ECKLUND LOGISTICS, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Smith Camp Chief United States District Judge
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
(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).
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)).
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)).
Judgment as a Matter of Law
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).
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
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% ...