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Civ Pro II Practice Question

Brian Loman, a citizen of South Carolina, was one of five passengers in a mini-van that
collided with a truck on Interstate 26. The truck was owned and operated by Tow Jam, a
citizen of Georgia. The mini-van driver and all five mini-van passengers suffered serious
injuries.

Loman brought a civil action against Tow Jam in the United States District Court for the
District of South Carolina, alleging that Tow Jam had negligently operated its truck, and
that as a result of Tow Jam’s negligence Loman had been struck by the truck, causing
him serious injuries, with approximately $100,000 in medical damages plus great pain
and suffering. Defendant denied that it had been negligent.

At trial, Loman testified that he did not see how the accident occurred; he was sitting in
the back seat chatting with a friend, and then the next moment he was waking up in a
hospital several weeks later. He did not call any witnesses to the accident. He did put on
evidence establishing that there was a collision between the parties, and as to the extent
of his injuries.

When Loman rested, Tow Jam moved for judgment as a matter of law. The trial judge
stated: “I don’t see any evidence here from which a jury could find negligence, but I’m
sure the jury will do the right thing, so let’s just move along counsel.” Tow Jam then
rested without putting on any evidence, and renewed his motion for judgment as a matter
of law. The trial judge stated: “Well, let’s see what the jury says.”

The jury returned a verdict for Loman in the amount of $75,000.

Tow Jam moved for judgment as a matter of law, and, in the alternative, for a new trial.
The trial judge ruled as follows: “I just don’t get how this jury did what they did. What
evidence could they have relied on? It sure looks wrong to me. But, I’m a great believer
in the Seventh Amendment. I hereby deny the Defendant’s motions, and enter judgment
for Plaintiff in the amount of $75,000.”

You have been retained by Tow Jam’s insurance company to advise them on whether to
appeal this judgment. The insurance company has instructed you that the cost for an
appeal will run $30,000, and the cost of a new trial would run an additional $50,000.

Please write a memo to the insurance company advising them on how they should
proceed.
Issues:

I. Did Loman provide enough evidence that a reasonable jury could find the D
negligent at trial, and if not, should the D have been entitled to its Rule 50 motion?

II. Should D appeal the Rule 50 motion or file a Rule 59 motion for a new trial?

I. No, even though P showed evidence that the Tow Jam truck swerved into his lane of
traffic right before the accident, the P is still making an inference as to causation.

A. Rule 50 standard rule to apply for D’s motion


1. Was the evidence legally sufficient for a reasonable jury to find the D
negligent?
a. In Chamberlain case, P’s testimony was inferential as
to causation, and the court granted Rule 50 motion in
favor of the D
b. In San Pedro case, the P could offer no direct
testimony as to how cow made it onto the RR tracks;
therefore, the Supreme Court ruled that D was entitled
to its Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law.
2. Burden of evidence is on P to prove D was negligent, and P’s evidence
is circumstantial.
a. Loman offered no witnesses. Without any direct
testimony or evidence to support his claim, he cannot
succeed on his claim.
b. Loman saw truck swerve in his direction, but did not
see or feel the collision b/c he passed out.
i. Bainbridge in Chamberlain had to make similar
assumption about which train car struck P.
B. Therefore trial court incorrectly denied the D its Rule 50 motion, based on the
evidence. The case should not have been sent to trial.

II. Client should appeal b/c it is likely he will succeed, and it will likely be less cost/risk
to Tow Jam, versus pursuing a new trial. In the alternative, D should appeal motion for a
new trial.

A. Appeals court will likely view that the denial of the Rule 50 motion was in
error.

1. Plaintiff was fully heard on the issue


2. P’s evidence was circumstantial and provided only an inference as to
causation, not direct testimony.
a. This testimony is not likely to convince a jury that it
could reasonably find the D negligent in the accident.
There is not enough evidence to support that standard.
C. If Appellate court does not reverse Rule 50 motion, D should appeal the denial
of its Rule 59 motion in the alternative.
1. The jury issued a verdict against the great weight of the evidence
a. Loman facts do not determine causation.
b. facts are cloudy as to what actually caused the accident,
and therefore, the D cannot be held to a strict liability
standard.
c. Judge may not have ruled directly or properly (from a
procedural point of view) on Rule 50 motion (this
might be a stretch).
D. Cost benefit analysis says that filing an appeal (30K) is more cost effective
than immediately filing for new trial (50K).
1. Caveat: Even if D appeals the Rule 50 motion, the P could assert
grounds entitling it to a new trial, in which case, if granted, could end
up costing more money than originally thought.