United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
EARL BRITT, SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on the parties' post-trial
motions following the entry of final judgment on the jury
verdict awarding the six trial plaintiffs in this case
compensatory and punitive damages on their nuisance claims.
(DE ## 275, 277, 281, 285.)
DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND
to Rules 59(e) and 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, defendant requests that the court vacate the
judgment. “A Rule 59(e) motion may only be granted in
three situations: ‘(1) to accommodate an intervening
change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence
not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of
law or prevent manifest injustice.' It is an
extraordinary remedy that should be applied sparingly.”
Mayfield v. Nat'l Ass'n for Stock Car Auto
Racing, Inc., 674 F.3d 369, 378 (4th Cir. 2012)
(citations omitted). Because defendant filed its motion
within 28 days of entry of the judgment, the court considers
it only under this standard, rather than under the Rule 60(b)
standard. See Robinson v. Wix Filtration Corp., 599
F.3d 403, 412 (4th Cir. 2010) (“We have squarely held,
however, that a motion filed under both Rule 59(e) and Rule
60(b) should be analyzed only under Rule 59(e) if it was
filed no later than  days after entry of the adverse
judgment and seeks to correct that judgment.”
argues that the judgment should be vacated for the failure to
join Greenwood Livestock LLC (“Greenwood
Livestock”) and the Pagle Corporation
(“Pagle”), owners of the subject farms, as
necessary and indispensable parties. Defendant filed a
similar motion in the related case of McKiver v.
Murphy-Brown, LLC, No. 7:14-CV-180-BR, and for the
reasons stated in the court's 17 December 2018 order in
that case, (DE # 346, at 5-7), the motion will be denied.
DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF
on Rule 50(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
defendant renews its earlier motions for judgment as a matter
of law. In considering a Rule 50(b) motion, “the
question is whether a jury, viewing the evidence in the light
most favorable to [the non-movant], could have properly
reached the conclusion reached by th[e] jury. If reasonable
minds could differ about the result in this case, [the court]
must affirm the jury's verdict.” Bryant v.
Aiken Reg'l Med. Ctrs. Inc., 333 F.3d 536, 543 (4th
Cir. 2003) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
argues that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law
because (1) plaintiffs failed to present sufficient evidence
to support punitive damages; (2) plaintiffs presented no
evidence to support compensatory damages as limited by an
amendment to North Carolina's Right to Farm Act
(“RFA”); (3) plaintiffs' claims are barred by
an amendment to the RFA; and (4) Greenwood Livestock and
Pagle are indispensable parties.
the first ground, defendant contends it is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law because plaintiffs failed to
present sufficient evidence to support punitive damages.
Considering the evidence developed at trial in the light most
favorable to plaintiffs, a reasonable jury could have found
defendant liable for punitive damages. As for the second and
third ground, because plaintiffs brought this action prior to
the effective dates of the subject amendments to the RFA,
see McKiver (DE # 346) at 2-5; McGowan v.
Murphy-Brown, LLC, No. 7:14-CV-182-BR (DE # 472) at 2-5,
those amendments do not limit the compensatory damages
plaintiffs may recover or bar their claims. As for the fourth
ground, defendant relies on its motion to alter or amend the
judgment. As addressed above, for the reasons stated in
McKiver (DE # 346), the court concludes Greenwood
Livestock and Pagle are not indispensable parties.
court will deny defendant's motion for judgment as a
matter of law.
DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR A NEW TRIAL
moves for a new trial under Rule 59(a) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure. “In considering a motion for a new
trial, a trial judge may weigh the evidence and consider the
credibility of witnesses, and if he finds the verdict is
against the clear weight of the evidence, is based on false
evidence or will result in a miscarriage of justice, he must
set aside the verdict, even if supported by substantial
evidence, and grant a new trial.” King v.
McMillan, 594 F.3d 301, 314 (4th Cir. 2010) (citation
and internal quotation marks omitted).
asks the court to revisit a number of its prior rulings,
covering pretrial cross-motions for summary judgment through
jury instructions. The court declines to disturb these
rulings. The only issues defendant raises that merit further
discussion are its allegations of misrepresentations by
plaintiffs' counsel regarding the measure of damages and
its request for remittitur.
Alleged Misrepresentations by Plaintiffs'
moves for a new trial based on certain statements made by
plaintiffs' counsel during his opening statement and
In the interests of justice and efficiency, a new trial
should not be lightly granted. To begin with, a new trial
should be granted only if prejudicial statements are so
egregious that they prevent the complaining party from
receiving a fair trial. See DeBenedetto v. Goodyear Tire
& Rubber Co., 754 F.2d 512, 519 (4th Cir. 1985). If
a party fails to object to an error at trial, a new trial
will not be granted unless “exceptional circumstances
exist such as when the error is so obvious or so serious that
the public reputation and integrity of the judicial
proceeding is impaired.” Hafner v. Brown, 983
F.2d 570, 578 (4th Cir. 1992) (internal quotation marks