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Minshall v. Hartman Equine Reproduction Center, P.A.

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

July 10, 2017

SHAWN MINSHALL, LISA VICTORIA MINSHALL, LAUREN VICTORIA MINSHALL
v.
HARTMAN EQUINE REPRODUCTION CENTER, P.A.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMOS L. MAZZANT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Reconsider Memorandum Opinion and Order Denying Plaintiffs' Motion for Entry of Judgment and Motion to Amend Final Judgment (Dkt. #137). Having considered the pleadings, the Court finds the motion should be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         On April 26, 2017, the Court entered a Memorandum Opinion and Order (Dkt. #135) and Final Judgment (Dkt. #136) finding that Plaintiffs' damages were limited to $3, 000. As discussed in the Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order (Dkt. #135), the jury returned a verdict in this case on March 7, 2017, finding Plaintiffs proved by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendant's negligence proximately caused Plaintiffs' damages (Dkt. #131, Question 7). The jury found no liability against Defendant as to Plaintiffs claims for violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, joint enterprise, civil conspiracy, and aiding and abetting (Dkt. #131).

         At the conclusion of the evidence, the Court submitted final instructions to the jury providing specific factors for the jury to consider when awarding damages for each specific cause of action (Dkt. #124). The Court instructed the jury that if it found Defendant negligent, in awarding damages it should consider “the difference, if any, in the market value of Otto and the market value Otto would have had if he had not been HERDA-affected.” (Dkt. #124 at p. 23). For the other causes of action Plaintiffs alleged, the Court instructed the jury that it could consider additional factors in determining damages, such as the reasonable and necessary expenses related to foaling, raising, boarding, and training Otto in the past and future and Plaintiffs' lost profits (Dkt. #124 at p. 21-24).

         As requested by the parties, the verdict form contained one question regarding compensatory damages (Dkt. #131, Question 14). The question instructed the jury to answer “what sum of money . . . would fairly and reasonably compensate Plaintiffs for their damages, if any, that were a producing or proximate cause of the occurrence in question” (Dkt. #131, Question 14). This question pertained to damages for all alleged causes of action, not just to damages for a finding of negligence (Dkt. #131, Question 14).

         On March 7, 2017, the jury found Defendant's negligence proximately caused Plaintiffs' damages, but found Defendant was not liable under any other cause of action (Dkt. #131). The jury awarded damages in the amount of $30, 000 for the difference in the market value Otto would have had if he had not been HERDA-affected (Dkt. #131, Question 14). The jury then awarded additional categories of compensatory damages, including the cost of caring for Otto and lost profits (Dkt. #131, Question 14). The jury awarded a total of $163, 408 in compensatory damages (Dkt. #131, Question 14). The jury further found that Defendant was ten percent responsible for Plaintiffs' injury (Dkt. #131, Question 19).

         On March 30, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a motion for entry of judgment (Dkt. #132). Plaintiffs argued they were entitled to $16, 340.80 in damages, or ten percent of the total compensatory damages awarded by the jury. Plaintiffs argued that “notwithstanding the jury instruction on negligence, compensatory damages for economic losses proximately caused by a party's negligence are available to the prevailing party as a matter of law in Texas.” (Dkt. #132 at p. 3). On March 31, 2017, Defendant filed a response stating Plaintiffs were entitled to $3, 000 in damages, or ten percent of the difference, if any, in the market value of Otto and the market value Otto would have had if he had not been HERDA-affected (Dkt. #133). Defendant argued this amount was consistent with the Court's instruction to the jury regarding negligence.

         On April 26, 2017, the Court held that Plaintiffs were entitled to $3, 000 in damages (Dkt. #135). The Court noted that the general rule for measuring damages to personal property is the difference in the market value immediately before and immediately after the injury to such property. Pasadena State Bank v. Isaac, 228 S.W.2d 127 (Tex. 1950); J & D Towing, LLC v. Am. Alternative Ins. Corp., 478 S.W.3d 649, 661 (Tex. 2016). The Court noted that while economic damages are also available to a prevailing party in a negligence action, see Nobility Homes of Texas, Inc. v. Shivers, 557 S.W.2d 77, 83 (Tex. 1977), Plaintiffs did not object to the Court's instruction limiting negligence damages to the difference in the market value of Otto (Dkt. #135 at p. 4). The Court further noted that the jury's award of additional compensatory damages was in response to questions the jury should not have answered because the jury only found Defendant negligent and did not find liability under other potential theories of recovery (Dkt. #135 at p. 4).

         The Court further denied Plaintiffs' request for attorneys' fees because Plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint did not seek recovery of attorneys' fees under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 38.001(6) and the jury did not make any findings regarding whether Otto was “injured” for purposes of Section 38.001(6) (Dkt. #135 at p. 5).

         On May 9, 2017, Plaintiffs filed the pending motion to reconsider (Dkt. #137). On May 15, 2017, Defendant filed a response (Dkt. #141).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion seeking “reconsideration” may be construed under either Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) or 60(b). Shepherd v. Int'l Paper Co., 372 F.3d 326, 328 n. 1 (5th Cir. 2004); see also Milazzo v. Young, No. 6:11-cv-350-JKG, 2012 WL 1867099, at *1 (E.D. Tex. May 21, 2012). Such a motion “‘calls into question the correctness of a judgment.'” Templet v. HydroChem Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 478 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting In re Transtexas Gas Corp., 303 F.3d 571, 581 (5th Cir. 2002)).

         “If a motion for reconsideration is filed within 28 days of the judgment or order of which the party complains, it is considered to be a Rule 59(e) motion; otherwise, it is treated as a Rule 60(b) motion.” Milazzo, 2012 WL 1867099, at *1; see Shepherd, 372 F.3d at 328 n. 1; Berge Helene Ltd. v. GE Oil & Gas, Inc., No. H-08-2931, 2011 WL 798204, at *2 (S.D. Tex. Mar. 1, 2011)). Plaintiffs filed their motion for ...


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