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Smith v. E&E Co., Ltd.

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

March 20, 2014

J. TEDD SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
E&E CO., LTD., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

MARTIN REIDINGER, District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Defendant's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, or in the Alternative, for a New Trial [Doc. 52].

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The Plaintiff J. Tedd Smith ("Smith") originally brought this action in the Buncombe County General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division, asserting a claim for breach of his employment contract against his former employer, the Defendant E&E Co., Ltd. ("E&E") [Complaint, Doc. 1-1]. On January 26, 2012, the Defendant removed the action to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. [Notice of Removal, Doc. 1].

The Defendant subsequently filed its Answer and Counterclaims for constructive fraud and deceptive trade practices. [Answer and Counterclaims, Doc. 4]. Those Counterclaims, however, were ultimately dismissed. [See Doc. 20].

This case proceeded to a jury trial on May 13, 2013. On May 15, 2013, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff. [Doc. 46]. Judgment was entered on June 12, 2013. [Doc. 48]. Thereafter, the Defendant filed the present motion for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new trial. [Doc. 52]. The Plaintiff has filed a response opposing the Defendant's motion [Doc. 54], and the Defendant has filed a reply [Doc. 55].

Having been fully briefed, this matter is now ripe for disposition.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

If a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue, the court may:
(A) resolve the issue against the party; and
(B) grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against the party on a claim or defense that, under the controlling law, can be maintained or defeated only with a favorable finding on that issue.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a)(1). If the court does not grant a Rule 50(a) motion at trial, the movant may file a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law within 28 days after the entry of judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b). Such motion may include an alternative request for a new trial under Rule 59. Id.

A jury verdict will withstand a Rule 50(b) motion unless the nonmovant has presented no substantial evidence to support the jury verdict. Stamathis v. Flying J, Inc. , 389 F.3d 429, 436 (4th Cir. 2004). A Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law is reviewed under the same standard as that applied in reviewing a motion for summary judgment. Thus, in considering the Defendant's motion, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff and draw all reasonable inferences in the Plaintiff's favor. See Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc. , 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002). A verdict may not be set aside unless the Court "determines that the only conclusion a reasonable trier of fact could draw from the evidence is in ...


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