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Turner v. Medical Management & Social Services, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division

April 4, 2019

RACHEL TURNER, individually and on behalf of all those similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
MEDICAL MANAGEMENT & SOCIAL SERVICES, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND OPINION

          HAL R. RAY, JR., UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Defendants Medical Case Management Services, Inc. (“MCM”), Bonnie Williams (“Williams”), Donald Ramsey (“Ramsey”), Portia Jones (“Jones”), and Community Care Medical Clinics, Inc. (“CCMC”) (collectively, “the Defendants”) move for judgment as a matter of law, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a), and, alternatively, for new trial, under Rule 59(a), in this suit for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-216 (“FLSA”). (ECF No. 125). After considering the Motion and applicable law, the Court DENIES the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Rachel Turner, brought this suit individually and on behalf of others similarly situated (collectively, “the Plaintiffs”), against Defendants under the FLSA for unpaid overtime. (ECF No. 1 at 1). The parties stipulated that the FLSA required MCM to pay overtime to Plaintiffs and that MCM had only paid “straight time” to Plaintiffs for hours worked over 40. (ECF No. 119 at 5). The parties also stipulated as to the specific amount of damages due each individual plaintiff, depending upon whether Defendants were found to have willfully violated the FLSA. (ECF No. 110). Thus, the only questions for the jury to decide were whether CCMC and the individual defendants were “employers” under the FLSA and if they willfully violated the FLSA. (ECF No. 119). To that end, Question No. 2 in the Jury Charge asked, “Have Plaintiffs proven that Defendant [CCMC] was their employer?”, (id.at 9), and Question No. 7 asked, “Have Plaintiffs proven that Defendant [CCMC] (through its agent or employee) acted willfully?” (id. at 11). The jury answered “Yes” for all Defendants finding they were employers and that they had willfully violated the FLSA. (Id.).

         In their motion for judgment as a matter of law and, alternatively, for new trial under Rules 50 and 59(a), respectively, Defendants argue that the evidence is insufficient to support the jury's findings that (1) CCMC, Williams, and Jones are employers under the FLSA and (2) any Defendant willfully violated the FLSA. (ECF No. 125). Defendants made this motion without any citation to the trial proceedings. Thus, none of Defendants' arguments are supported by citations to trial records. Nevertheless, Defendants now complain that the jury's verdict was against the great weight of the evidence. The Court has addressed Defendants' arguments as best it can without Defendant providing any references to the record, but this is a difficult task, especially in a case such as this one where the parties relied principally on witness testimony. See Parr v. Nicholls State Univ., No. CIV.A. 09-3576, 2012 WL 1032905, at *3 (E.D. La. Mar. 27, 2012) (“[W]ithout the benefit of citation to the trial transcript, the Court has no basis for determining that any error occurred.”), aff'd sub nom. Parr v. Hulbert, 518 Fed.Appx. 275 (5th Cir. 2013) (per curiam).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         I. Judgment as a Matter of Law-Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50

         “A motion for judgment as a matter of law ‘challenges the legal sufficiency of the evidence to support the verdict.'” Jacobs v. Tapscott, 516 F.Supp.2d 639, 643 (N.D. Tex. 2007) (quoting Hodges v. Mack Trucks, Inc., 474 F.3d 188, 195 (5th Cir. 2006)). The court will “uphold a jury verdict unless the facts and inferences point so strongly and so overwhelmingly in favor of one party that reasonable [jurors] could not arrive at any verdict to the contrary.” Goodner v. Hyundai Motor Co., 650 F.3d 1034, 1039 (5th Cir. 2011) (alteration in original) (quoting Cousin v. Trans Union Corp., 246 F.3d 359, 366 (5th Cir. 2001)). “In other words, the ‘jury verdict must be upheld unless there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find as the jury did.'” Id. at 1039-40 (quoting Foradori v. Harris, 523 F.3d 477, 485 (5th Cir. 2008)).

         II. Motion for New Trial-Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)

         Under Rule 59(a), a new trial may be granted 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). Although the grounds for granting a new trial are not specifically enumerated in Rule 59, the Fifth Circuit has found that a new trial is appropriate where: (1) the verdict is against the weight of the evidence, (2) the amount of damages awarded is excessive, or (3) the trial was unfair or marred by prejudicial error. Seidman v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 923 F.2d 1134, 1140 (5th Cir. 1991). “The trial court in passing on a motion for a new trial need not take the view of the evidence most favorable to the verdict winner, but may weigh the evidence.” Shows v. Jamison Bedding, Inc., 671 F.2d 927, 930 (5th Cir. 1982). However, a judge may not order a new trial “simply because he disagrees with the jury verdict.” Id. “Courts do not grant new trials unless it is reasonably clear that prejudicial error has crept into the record or that substantial justice has not been done, and the burden of showing harmful error rests on the party seeking the new trial.” Del Rio Distrib., Inc. v. Adolph Coors Co., 589 F.2d 176, 179 n.3 (5th Cir. 1979).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Defendants waived their right to relief under Rule 50(b).

         Plaintiffs argue that Defendants waived their right to relief under Rule 50(b) because they did not move for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(a). Plaintiffs are correct that “when a party fails to raise an issue in a Rule 50(a) motion, it waives the right to raise that issue in a Rule 50(b) motion.” Waganfeald v. Gusman, 674 F.3d 475, 481 n.14 (5th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted); see also Moss v. Princip, 913 F.3d 508, 522 (5th Cir. 2019) (We have held that “[a] party that fails to move for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(a) on the basis of insufficient evidence at the conclusion of all of the evidence waives its right to file a post-verdict Rule 50(b) motion, and also waives its right to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal.” (quotation and citations omitted)). In their motion, Defendants do no assert whether they moved for judgment as a matter of law at the conclusion of all of the evidence. The Court does not recall them doing so. Accordingly, Defendants have waived their right to relief under Rule 50(b). Alternatively, as discussed below, even absent the waiver, Defendants are not entitled to relief under Rule 50(b) because there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict.

         II. The jury's verdict is not against the great ...


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