United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga Division
MARY S. HAGEDORN, Plaintiff,
WAL-MART STORES EAST, L.P., Defendant.
W. Phillips United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for a
New Trial [doc. 74], Plaintiff's Brief in Support of the
Motion [doc. 75], and Defendant's Response [doc. 76]. For
the reasons herein, the Court will deny Plaintiff's
Court conducted a two-day trial in this negligence case,
which involved an incident that occurred in Defendant
Wal-Mart Stores East L.P.'s store on Gunbarrel Road in
Chattanooga. During trial, Plaintiff Mary S. Hagedorn
maintained that, while shopping in this store, one of
Wal-Mart's employees negligently injured her when he
collided into her with “a large cart used for stocking
merchandise.” [Pretrial Order, doc. 49, at 1-2]. As
part of her theory, she claimed that the cart was overly
stacked with boxes, which blocked the employee's view
because he was pushing it rather than pulling it.
[Id. at 2]. Wal-Mart, however, raised comparative
negligence as a defense, arguing that Ms. Hagedorn backed
into the cart. [Id.].
objection from Ms. Hagedorn, the Court, at the close of the
evidence, instructed the jury on comparative negligence under
Tennessee law. The jury ultimately returned a verdict in
which it allotted fifty percent of the fault to Ms. Hagedorn
and fifty percent of the fault to Wal-Mart, precluding Ms.
Hagedorn from recovering any damages under Tennessee law.
[Verdict Form, doc. 69, at 1-2]. She now petitions the Court
for a new trial under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59.
Rule 59, the Court “may, on motion, grant a new trial
on all or some of the 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
59(a)(1)(A). In this circuit, courts interpret this language
to mean that a new trial is improper unless a jury reached a
result that is “seriously erroneous, ” “as
evidenced by: (1) the verdict being against the weight of the
evidence; (2) the damages being excessive; or (3) the trial
being unfair to the moving party in some way, i.e.,
the proceedings being influenced by prejudice or bias.”
Holmes v. City of Massillon, 78 F.3d 1041, 1045-46
(6th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted). A decision to grant or
deny a motion for a new trial “is discretionary with
the district court.” Davis by Davis v. Jellico
Cmty. Hosp. Inc., 912 F.2d 129, 132-33 (6th Cir. 1990)
(citations omitted); see L-S Indus. v. Matlack, 2010
WL 2696202, No. 3:07-CV-273, at *1 (E.D. Tenn. July 6, 2010)
(noting that a district court has “broad
discretion” when deciding the propriety of a new trial
under Rule 59 (citations omitted)).
Hagedorn contends that a new trial is necessary because the
“verdict is against the clear weight of the
evidence.” [Pl.'s Mot. at 1]. She claims the trial
lacked “credible proof” from which the jury could
have allocated fifty percent of the fault to her.
[Id.]. In her opinion, the “only evidence in
the trial that could cast any fault on [her] was the
testimony of Christian Morgan, ” [Pl.'s Br. at 1],
who was a former assistant manager at the store on Gunbarrel
Road, [Trial Tr. (on file with the Court)]. Mr. Morgan
testified that he remembered an incident involving a
“code white” at the store and that this
terminology means “a customer or an associate [was]
injured.” [Id.]. According to his recollection
of the incident, an employee was “pulling a rocket
cart” and a customer backed into it and hurt her ankle.
[Id.]. Ms. Hagedorn argues that Mr. Morgan
“was obviously remembering the wrong accident.”
[Pl.'s Mot. at 1]. To support this argument, she first
points out that the Accident Report [Pl.'s Ex. 27] for
her specific incident identifies her elbow, and not her
ankle, as the injured part of her body. [Id. at 1].
She also notes that the video footage that captured her
movements in the store reveals that an employee was pushing
and not pulling a cart in her direction. [Video, Def.'s
Morgan, however, also testified that the code-white incident
he described was the only code-white incident that occurred
while he was assistant manager. [Trial Tr.]. And more
specifically, he testified that it was the only incident
involving a cart-related injury to a customer, and he
identified the customer as a woman. [Id.]. In
addition, he stated that he approached the customer after the
incident took place and asked her if she wanted him to call
an ambulance. [Id.]. Her response was no.
[Id.]. Ms. Hagedorn's testimony was a near
facsimile of Mr. Morgan's rendition of events. Ms.
Hagedorn testified that after her incident, the assistant
manager-whom she even identified as Mr. Morgan-approached her
and offered to call an ambulance for her, but she told him
that an ambulance was not necessary. [Id.]. Mr.
Morgan then completed her Accident Report. [Id.;
Pl.'s Ex. 27]. And importantly, the code-white incident
that Mr. Morgan recounted during his testimony took place on
the same date as Ms. Hagedorn's incident-October 24,
2015. [Trial Tr.]. Lastly, regarding the video footage-which
shows an employee pushing and not pulling a cart toward Ms.
Hagedorn-Ms. Hagedorn testified that this footage was not of
the accident itself but of the moments after the accident.
[Id.]. Throughout trial, she strenuously and
repeatedly informed the Court that Wal-Mart had never
produced a video of the accident itself-that is, her
collision with the cart and the toppling of the boxes on top
heard all this evidence at trial, the jury could have
reasonably determined that the code-white incident that Mr.
Morgan described during his testimony was the identical
incident involving Ms. Hagedorn. See Armisted v. State
Farm Mut. Ins. Co., 675 F.3d 989, 995 (6th Cir. 2012)
(stating that courts will uphold a verdict “if it was
one which the jury reasonably could have reached”
(citation omitted)). The Court lacks license to reweigh this
evidence or to draw a conclusion that differs from the
jury's conclusion, even if it believes another outcome
would have been more reasonable. Waldo v. Consumers
Energy Co., 726 F.3d 802, 813 (6th Cir. 2013). Simply,
when a party argues that a verdict is against the weight of
the evidence, “a new trial on this ground is a rare
occurrence, ” and the jury's verdict in this
case-resting on evidentiary support-does not warrant this
rare remedy. Armisted, 675 F.3d at 995 (citation
Rule 59, Ms. Hagedorn fails to establish that the jury's
verdict is counter to the weight of the evidence at trial.
Ms. Hagedorn's Motion for a New Trial [doc. 74] is