United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
OPINION AND ORDER
HOLMES, III CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are Defendant Shelter Mutual Insurance
Company's (“Shelter”) motion for new trial
(Doc.43), memorandum brief in support of motion (Doc. 44),
Plaintiffs Ronny Coyle and Lisa Coyle's (“the
Coyles”) response to motion for new trial (Doc. 47),
and memorandum brief in support of response (Doc. 48).
Following the unanimous jury verdict (Doc. 35) returned for
Plaintiffs and the Court's opinions and orders (Docs. 21,
45), the Court entered final judgment on October 16, 2018
(Doc. 46). This motion (Doc. 43) was filed before entry of
the final judgment and was timely filed. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 59(b). For the reasons stated below, Shelter's
motion (Doc. 43) will be GRANTED.
Standard of Review
court may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the
issues . . . after a jury trial, for any reason for which a
new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in
federal court . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1)(A).
“Under Rule 59, the decision to grant a new trial lies
within the sound discretion of the trial court.”
Haigh v. Gelita USA, Inc., 632 F.3d 464, 471 (8th
Cir. 2011). “[T]he key question [is] whether a new
trial is necessary to prevent a miscarriage of
justice.” Dindinger v. Allsteel, Inc., 853
F.3d 414, 421 (8th Cir. 2017) (quoting Hallmark Cards,
Inc. v. Murley, 703 F.3d 456, 462 (8th Cir. 2013)).
motion for new trial is based on closing arguments made by
the Coyles' attorney. The Coyles filed a breach of
contract action based on a fire loss on property insured by
Shelter. Before trial, Shelter filed a motion in limine (Doc.
26) to preclude evidence of non-prosecution of Ronny Coyle
and Lisa Coyle as a result of the fire. The Coyles planned to
introduce the testimony of a state police investigator who
investigated the fire and concluded that no criminal charges
should be filed. The prosecuting attorney followed the
recommendation of the state police investigator, and no
criminal charges were filed as a result of the fire. While
the Court denied the motion as premature, it permitted
Shelter to renew the motion and raise the objection at trial.
commencement of trial, Shelter renewed its motion in limine
to preclude the testimony of Sam Bass, the state police
investigator, as it related to his report and recommendation
that the Coyles not be charged with any criminal offenses as
a result of the fire. The state police had been contacted by
Shelter, which reported to the state police that the origin
of the fire was suspicious. The state police investigator
prepared a written report based on his investigation of the
fire scene and interviews with witnesses. The Coyles intended
to introduce the written report into evidence. The Court
ruled that the written report was not admissible, but that
the state police investigator could testify about his
observations from his investigation of the fire. The Court
granted Shelter's motion in limine to the extent the
state police investigator intended to testify that Ronny
Coyle or Lisa Coyle were not charged with arson, or to the
extent he intended to testify that there was no evidence that
Ronny Coyle or Lisa Coyle set the fire. (Doc. 42, p. 7). At
trial Sam Bass testified about his observations from
investigating the fire, but did not testify as to his
recommendation to the prosecuting attorney that no criminal
charges be filed against the Coyles.
Ronny Coyle's testimony on direct examination, he was
asked a question by his attorney that came close to the issue
of non-prosecution of the Coyles as a result of the fire
Q. Now, do you have any type of criminal history of arson--
Q. -- or any other --
Q. -- things in your background?
A. Never been in trouble. I haven't even got, had a
ticket in years.
objection was made to the question or the response. There
were no other references to criminal charges not being filed
against the Coyles as a result of ...