United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
COLLETTE FLANAGAN, Individually and on behalf of the Estate of CLINTON ALLEN, deceased, and RONDERALINE S. ALLEN, Individually, Plaintiffs,
THE CITY OF DALLAS, TEXAS, and CLARK STALLER, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA M. G. LYNN CHIEF JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for New Trial (ECF. No.
188). After consideration, the Court DENIES
early morning of March 10, 2013, Clinton Allen was shot and
killed during an attempted arrest by Dallas police officer
Clark Staller. (See Answer, ECF No. 9, at ¶
October 18, 2013, Allen's parents filed this action
against the City of Dallas and Staller, alleging claims
against Defendants for violation of Allen's
constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No.
October 10, 2017, a jury trial commenced. (ECF No. 162).
Plaintiffs presented witnesses and evidence for six days and
closed their case-in-chief on October 19, 2017. (ECF No.
176). On the same day, the City of Dallas moved for and
successfully obtained dismissal under Rule 50(a).
(Id.). Trial continued only as to whether Staller
used “excessive force” during the attempted
arrest that resulted in Allen's death. For two days,
Staller presented witnesses and evidence supporting his
defense before closing his case-in-chief on October 23, 2017.
(ECF No. 177, 178). The circumstances leading to, and the
culpability for, Allen's death were highly disputed. The
Court charged the jury on the same day. (ECF No. 178).
jury charge included instructions on the elements of an
excessive force claim, and asked:
Question No. 1
Did Plaintiffs prove, by a preponderance of the evidence,
that Clark Staller used excessive force on Clinton Allen on
March 10, 2013?
(ECF No. 180, at 7, 12). The verdict form also included
instructions and questions related to causation (Question 2),
the defense of qualified immunity (Question 3), compensatory
damages (Question 4), and punitive damages (Questions 5 and
6). (Id. at 12-15).
deliberation, the jury answered “No” to Question
1, without answering any additional questions as the
instructions provided. (Id. at 12).
October 30, 2017, the Court entered a take-nothing judgment
in favor of Defendants. (ECF No. 184). Four weeks later,
Plaintiffs filed their Motion for New Trial, claiming the
jury verdict runs against the “great weight of the
evidence.” (ECF No. 188, at 1).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)(1), a district court
may grant a new trial if the verdict runs against the weight
of the evidence, the damages awarded are excessive, the trial
was unfair, or prejudicial error occurred. Smith v.
Transworld Drilling Co., 773 F.2d 610, 613 (5th Cir.
1985). The moving party has the burden to demonstrate harmful
error justifying a second trial. Streber v. Hunter,
221 F.3d 701, 736 (5th Cir. 2000). When a party challenges
the jury verdict, the court has no obligation to grant a new
trial unless it finds the evidence-viewed in the light most
favorable to the verdict-weighs so strongly and
overwhelmingly in favor of one party that no ...