United States District Court, D. Vermont
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM K. SESSIONS III DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
Schatzilein Buck and Yolanda Blair bring this action claiming
injuries resulting from a 2011 automobile accident. The
accident occurred when the sedan driven by Ms. Buck collided
with a telephone company utility truck. Plaintiffs claim that
the driver of the truck was at fault, and that Defendant is
liable for the driver's negligence.
Court held a three-day jury trial in November 2016. The jury
found in favor of the Defendant, concluding that Ms. Buck and
Ms. Blair had failed to prove negligence. Plaintiffs now move
the Court for a new trial. For the reasons set forth below,
their motion is denied.
decision to grant a motion for new trial under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 59(a) rests within the sound discretion of
the district court. Sequa Corp. v. GBJ Corp., 156
F.3d 136, 143 (2d Cir. 1998). “Unlike judgment as a
matter of law, a new trial may be granted even if there is
substantial evidence supporting the jury's
verdict.” DLC Mgmt. Corp. v. Town of Hyde
Park, 163 F.3d 124, 134 (2d Cir. 1998). While a court
may weigh the relevant evidence and order a new trial even if
the jury's verdict is supported by substantial evidence,
“it is well settled that a trial judge's
disagreement with the jury's verdict is not sufficient
reason to grant a new trial.” Mallis v. Bankers
Trust Co., 717 F.2d 683, 691 (2d Cir. 1983) (citations
omitted). A motion for new trial should not be granted unless
the Court “is convinced that the jury has reached a
seriously erroneous result or that the verdict is a
miscarriage of justice.” Kosmynka v. Polaris
Indus., Inc., 462 F.3d 74, 82 (2d Cir. 2006) (citations
omitted); see also DLC Mgmt. Corp., 163 F.3d at 134
(the court should only grant such a motion when the
jury's verdict is “egregious”) (citing
Dunlap-McCuller v. Riese Org., 980 F.2d 153, 158 (2d
The Jury's Conclusion as to Negligence
first contend that the jury reached the wrong result on the
question of negligence. As noted above, this case centers on
an automobile accident. On August 2, 2011, Ms. Buck was
driving a 2000 Mitsubishi sedan on Route 5 in Irasburg,
Vermont. The relevant portion of Route 5 runs north-south.
Ms. Buck and Ms. Blair, the car's passenger, were
traveling south. James Baker, driving a 2008 Ford bucket
utility truck, testified that he drove across the northbound
lane of Route 5 safely, and did not see Ms. Buck's
vehicle until shortly before she collided with his truck. The
collision occurred as Mr. Baker was driving the truck across
the southbound lane.
submit that Mr. Baker had a clear view of the roadway before
he entered the intersection, should have seen Ms. Buck's
car approaching from a distance, and that his failure to
yield was the proximate cause of the accident. In support of
their claim, they cite photographs of the accident scene, a
video simulation, and testimony from Defendant's expert.
They also refer to the Court's jury instruction which,
consistent with Vermont law, stated that a driver is deemed
to be aware of objects in plain view and must use reasonable
cite Mr. Baker's trial testimony, in which he explained
that at the time he entered the intersection he did not see
any cars on Route 5. Specifically, he testified that after
coming to a stop before entering the intersection, he looked
left, right, and left again, then proceeded into the
intersection a bit further in order to get a better view. He
again looked left, right, and left, before crossing the
northbound portion of Route 5.
Baker testified that as he was crossing the northbound lanes,
he looked right again to see if any cars were approaching
from the south. He testified that he did so “about the
time” his truck reached the median that divided the
north and southbound lanes. ECF No. 98-1 at 6. He did not
stop at the median, but was “continually moving.”
Id. He testified as follows on direct examination:
Q. Okay. And when you looked to the right -- well, first of
all, when you looked before you started moving into the
northbound lanes was there anything at all in that section of
Route 5 headed south that was visible to you? Was there any
car there whatsoever?
Q. You're positive of that?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. So when you looked again to the right after you crossed
the northbound lanes and just before you headed to the
southbound lanes when you looked to your right again what did
A. When I got to the intersection I did see a vehicle coming
Q. Okay. And where was the vehicle located when you first saw
A. I can't say exactly. I believe it was -- I don't
know footage wise ...