United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
JEFFERY RANDOLPH WATTERSON and RANDOLPH ALEXANDER WATTERSON, Plaintiff,
WOODY BURGESS, JASON GREEN, FRANKIE DELLINGER, JENNIFER HOYLE, DAVID HODKINS, BOB AUSTELL, MIKE ALLRED, DAVID HODKINS, CITY OF CHERRYVILLE, BEN BLACKBURN, SELECTIVE INS. OF S.C., CHERRYVILLE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT AND CHERRYVILLE UTILITIES DEPT., Defendants.
D. WHITNEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on numerous post-trial motions:
Defendants' Motions for Judgment as a Matter of Law
(Docs. Nos. 223, 227, 229, 231, 236, 237), Plaintiff Randolph
Watterson's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, or in
the alternative, For a New Trial (Docs. Nos. 232, 239),
Plaintiff Randolph Watterson's Motion for Default
Judgment (Doc. No. 234), Plaintiff' Randolph
Watterson's Motion to Compel and for Sanctions (Doc. No.
266), and Defendants Jason Green and Jennifer Hoyle's
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 249). Plaintiff Randolph
Watterson filed pleadings in opposition to all of
Defendants' motions, and Defendants have responded to his
motions and other pleadings. Notably, Plaintiff Jeffery
Watterson filed no post-trial motions, nor has he filed any
response to any of Defendants' pending motions.
Accordingly, all motions are ripe.
who appear pro se, filed this action against Defendants,
asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations
of constitutional rights and a claim for civil RICO under 18
U.S.C. § 1962. In short, Plaintiffs, who are brothers,
contend two police officers with the City of Cherryville
Police Department, as well as several other identified
employees of the City of Cherryville, engaged in unlawful
conduct resulting in injury to Plaintiffs and their business.
Because of Plaintiffs' pro se status, this Court afforded
them wide latitude in proceeding through discovery on their
claims and extended deadlines the Court typically does not
prolong. The Court also appointed counsel to assist Randolph
Watterson, who has been incarcerated during the pendency of
this action. (Doc. No. 123). Randolph Watterson, however,
subsequently terminated representation by appointed counsel
and instead chose to proceed pro se for the remainder of the
case. (Docs. Nos. 152, 153).
Court granted summary judgment in part as to several
individual Defendants and on some portions of Plaintiffs'
claims against other remaining Defendants. (Doc. No. 241.) In
short, the Court dismissed all claims against the individual
City Defendants, Woody Burgess, Bob Austell, Mike Allred,
David Hodgkins and Ben Blackburn prior to trial on grounds of
qualified immunity and dismissed claims against the
Cherryville City Police Department and Cherryville Utilities
Department on the grounds that said departments were part of
The City of Cherryville and not separate entities capable of
being sued. The Court's summary judgment ruling also
clarified Jeffery Watterson's claims proceeding to trial.
The Court conducted a jury trial on Plaintiffs' claims
against Defendants City of Cherryville, Jason Green, Frankie
Dellinger, and Jennifer Hoyle. The jury found no liability
for Dellinger and Hoyle on Plaintiff Jeffery Watterson's
only causes of action. (Doc. No. 225). The jury's verdict
found no liability for the City of Cherryville, Green, or
Dellinger on Plaintiff Randolph Watterson's accusations
against them. (Doc. No. 224). The jury was instructed that
Hoyle was liable to Randolph Watterson as a matter of law,
such that the jury need only decide whether Randolph
Watterson was entitled to compensatory damages, including
nominal damages. The jury did not award any damages as
against Hoyle, prompting the Court to enter an oral award of
nominal damages for Randolph Watterson, a decision to which
all parties agreed in open court.
trial, Defendants reasserted the statute of limitations
issues they had previously raised in their arguments on
summary judgment. The Court heard oral argument from the
parties, and considered evidence presented during the jury
trial, as well as other testimony presented outside of the
presence of the jury. The Court entered an oral ruling
finding the statute of limitations barred Plaintiffs'
claims. The Court ordered Defendants to submit other proposed
findings of fact and conclusions of law, which are now
pending before the Court. Additionally, Plaintiff Randolph
Watterson has filed post-trial motions challenging the
jury's verdict as a matter of law and requesting a new
trial. He also requests sanctions against defense counsel for
their failure to properly serve him with post-trial pleadings
in this matter. In response to Plaintiff Randolph
Watterson's filings with this Court indicating he had not
received copies of several post-trial pleadings, in large
part due to his transfer within the state prison system, the
Court held in abeyance decision on the pending motions,
ordered re-service of the pleadings by the Clerk of Court,
and extended time for Plaintiff Randolph Watterson to respond
to all pending motions. (Doc. No. 255). After awaiting
Plaintiff's response, the motions are now ripe. The Court
addresses these motions in turn.
Defendants' Motions for Judgment as a Matter of Law
Defendants, except Defendant Jennifer Hoyle,  have moved for
judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 50, arguing the statute of limitations bars
Plaintiffs' claims against them. Plaintiff Randolph
Watterson opposes these motions, asserting the principle of
equitable tolling should be applied and his claims found to
be timely asserted. As previously noted, Plaintiff Jeffery
Watterson failed to file any pleading to be construed as
opposition to the pending motions, and the time for doing so
has long expired.
50(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that,
in actions tried before a jury, a district court may grant a
motion for judgment as a matter of law against a party if the
party has been ‘fully heard' on an issue during
trial and ‘a reasonable jury would not have a legally
sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that
issue.'” Gilmore v. Holder, 616
F.App'x 546, 547 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
50(a)). Pursuant to Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, a party that moved for judgment as a matter
of law at trial may, within twenty-eight days of the entry of
judgment, renew the request for judgment as a matter of law.
In ruling on a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of
law, a court may: (1) allow judgment on the verdict; (2)
order a new trial; or (3) direct entry of judgment as a
matter of law on the claims. Fed R. Civ. P.
50(b)(1)-(3). A “Rule 50(b) motion should
be granted if a district court determines, without weighing
the evidence or considering the credibility of the witnesses,
that substantial evidence does not support the jury's
findings.” Konkel v. Bob Evans Farms, Inc.,
165 F.3d 275, 279 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing White v. Cnty.
of Newberry, 985 F.2d 168, 172 (4th Cir. 1993)).
Court has reviewed the motions, record, and applicable law as
it pertains to the claims asserted by Jeffery Watterson. To
the extent the statue of limitations bars his claims, the
Court grants Defendants' unopposed motions as against
Jeffery Watterson as he presented neither evidence of injury
within the applicable time period, nor does he present any
meritorious argument for tolling the time limitations imposed
on his claims.
to the merits of the motions as they pertain to Randolph
Watterson (hereinafter “Watterson”), Defendants
City of Cherryville, Green, and Dellinger generally argue all
of Watterson's claims are barred by the statute of
limitations. As previously noted, Watterson filed this action
on March 12, 2013, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for violations of his constitutional rights and a claim
for civil RICO under 18 U.S.C. § 1962. The evidence
showed, and Watterson agreed in open court, he suffered no
injury or damages after the date of his incarceration -
January 11, 2009 - which was four years and two months before
the filing of his original Complaint on March 12, 2013.
statute of limitations for a § 1983 action is three
years from the date of the alleged violation. Wilson v.
Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276 (1985); National
Advertising Co. v. City of Raleigh, 947 F.2d 1158,
1161-62 & n. 2 (4th Cir. 1991), cert. denied,
504 U.S. 931 (1992). The statute of limitations for a civil
RICO action is four years from the date the plaintiff
discovered, or should have discovered, the purported injury.
Rotella v. Wood, 528 U.S. 549, 555 (2000);
Potomac Elec. Power Co. v. Elec. Motor and Supply,
Inc., 262 F.3d 260, 266 (4th Cir. 2001). Accordingly,
Randolph Watterson has failed to show he sustained an actual
or alleged Constitutional violation within three years of
filing his complaint asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 or that he sustained an actual or alleged injury or
damage within four years of filing his complaint asserting
claims for violations of civil RICO.
contends, however, his claims are not time barred under the
principle of equitable tolling for several reasons, including
his assertion that law enforcement agents investigating
criminal behavior by Defendants Green and Dellinger told
Watterson to refrain from filing his civil law suit until the
criminal investigation completed. (See Docs. Nos.
256, 257, 258, 259, 260, 262, 263.) To the extent Watterson
asserts medical injuries or his conditions of confinement
precluded his ...