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Defendant's Motion to Reduce Award

Defendant's Motion to Reduce Award

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Published by Ben Sheffner
Defendant's Motion to Reduce Award follwing third trial in Capitol v. Thomas-Rasset
Defendant's Motion to Reduce Award follwing third trial in Capitol v. Thomas-Rasset

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Published by: Ben Sheffner on Dec 08, 2010
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06/04/2011

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1
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTDISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
CAPITOL RECORDS INC.
et al.
,
 Plaintiffs
,
v
.JAMMIE THOMAS–RASSET,
 Defendant 
.Case No. 06-cv-1497-MJD
MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND THE JUDGMENT AND RENEWEDMOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW
K.A.D. CamaraJoe SibleyC
AMARA
&
 
S
IBLEY
LLP2800 Post Oak Boulevard, Suite 5220Houston, Texas 77056713 966 6789713 583 1131 (fax)
camara@camarasibley.com sibley@camarasibley.com
 Garrett BlanchfieldBrant D. PenneyReinhardt, Wendorf & Blanchfield332 Minnesota Street, Suite E-1250St. Paul, Minnesota 55101651 287 2100651 287 2103
 g.blanchfield@rwblawfirm.comb.penney@rwblawfirm.com Attorneys for Defendant Jammie Thomas–Rasset 
 
CASE 0:06-cv-01497-MJD-LIB Document 437 Filed 12/06/10 Page 1 of 13
 
2
MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND THE JUDGMENT AND RENEWEDMOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW
The jury awarded statutory damages of $62,500 per song for a total award of $1,500,000.
See
Doc. 428 (judgment). This award violates the Due Process Clause because it bears no reasonable relationship to the actual damages that the defendantcaused. While the plaintiffs offered evidence of the harm caused by file sharing ingeneral, they were unable to present evidence of any harm caused by this defendant in particular.
1
Because the plaintiffs failed to prove that this particular defendant did themany identifiable harm, even an award of the minimum statutory damages permitted by theCopyright Act would be unconstitutional. Accordingly, the defendant asks this Court toalter or amend the judgment under Rule 59(e) or grant judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(b) to remove any award of statutory damages or, in the alternative, reduce theaward of statutory damages to an amount that this Court believes is constitutional.
2
 
I. COMPETING CONSTITUTIONAL STANDARDS
A district court must reduce an unconstitutionally excessive verdict.
See Ross v. Kansas City Power & Light Co.
, 293 F.3d 1041, 1049–50 (8th Cir. 2002) (holding that,unlike for a remittitur, the plaintiffs’ consent is not necessary to reduce a verdict onconstitutional grounds). A defendant may challenge a verdict as unconstitutionallyexcessive either by a motion to alter or amend the judgment,
 see, e.g., Maristuen v.
1
The plaintiffs did not even succeed in proving damages equal to the profits that they loston the sale of the 24 songs at issue in this case. None of the plaintiffs’ witnesses was ableto testify about the profit margins on these songs. And without knowing the plaintiffs’ profit margins, we cannot accurately determine the harm that the plaintiffs suffered whenthey lost a sale.
2
In light of the plaintiffs’ demonstrated unwillingness to accept a reduced judgment, thedefendant does not request common-law remittitur. Rather, the defendant asks this Courtto address her constitutional challenge and thereby create an appealable final judgment.
CASE 0:06-cv-01497-MJD-LIB Document 437 Filed 12/06/10 Page 2 of 13
 
3
 National States Ins. Co.
, 57 F.3d 673, 676, 679 n.4 (8th Cir. 1995), or by a renewedmotion for judgment as a matter of law,
 see, e.g., Fletcher v. Price Chopper Foods of Trumann, Inc.
, 220 F.3d 871, 875 (8th Cir. 2000). In either case, the question iswhether the award of statutory damages comports with the Due Process Clause.The parties disagree about what constitutional standard this Court should use toreview the award of statutory damages in this case. The plaintiffs argue for the standardin
St. Louis, I.M. & S. Ry. Co. v. Williams
, 251 U.S. 63 (1919), the only Supreme Courtcase to address the constitutionality of statutory damages, while the defendant argues for the standard in
 BMW v. Gore
, 517 U.S. 559 (1996), and the Supreme Court’s other recentcases in the context of common-law punitive damages.
 
Although there is a split of authority on whether 
Gore
and its progeny apply to statutory punitive damages, the better view is that the Due Process Clause creates a single standard for review of punitivedamages, whether common law or statutory, and that
Williams
,
Gore
, and the SupremeCourt’s other punitive-damages decisions all explain this single standard.
See Sony BMGMusic Entertainment v. Tenenbaum
, No. 07-cv-11446-NG, — F. Supp. 2d —, 2010 WL2705499 at *13 n.10 (noting split and collecting cases), *14 (holding that
Gore
applies tostatutory punitive damages).
3
 
II. THE
WILLIAMS 
STANDARD
In
Williams
, a railroad challenged statutory damages of “not less than fifty dollarsnor more than three hundred dollars” for violating Arkansas’s regulation of railroad rates
3
Indeed, courts have often relied on
Williams
and similar cases in the context of common-law statutory damages.
See, e.g., Eichenseer v. Reserve Life Ins. Co.
, 934 F.2d1377, 1382 n.6 (5th Cir. 1991) (citing
Williams
and
Waters-Pierce
in reviewing acommon-law punitive-damages award). This lends support to the view that there is asingle body of law governing constitutional review of punitive damages, whether authorized by common law or by statute.
CASE 0:06-cv-01497-MJD-LIB Document 437 Filed 12/06/10 Page 3 of 13

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