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Shiheiber v. Griffin Thermal Products, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

February 19, 2019

NIMER SHIHEIBER PLAINTIFF
v.
GRIFFIN THERMAL PRODUCTS, INC. DEFENDANT

          ORDER

          SUSAN O. HICKEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law and, Alternatively, for New Trial on Damages. (ECF No. 77). Defendant has filed a response in opposition. (ECF No. 78). Plaintiff has filed a reply. (ECF No. 79). The Court finds this matter ripe for consideration.

         BACKGROUND

         This case originated as a negligence and conversion action. Plaintiff is a mechanic and inventor who constructed a cardboard mockup of a new automotive radiator design. Defendant is in the business of buying, selling, and manufacturing automotive radiators. Plaintiff shipped the mockup prototype to Defendant with the intention that Defendant fabricate a radiator based on Plaintiff's design. Defendant admits that it received then subsequently lost Plaintiff's cardboard mockup.

         The trial in this matter was held on July 25, 2016. At trial, Plaintiff argued that the fair market value of his prototype was at least several hundred thousand, if not millions of dollars.[1]Meanwhile, Defendant contended that the cardboard prototype, by virtue of being constructed of cardboard, was essentially worthless.[2] On July 26, 2016, the jury awarded Plaintiff $1.00 in nominal damages and $63, 000.00 in compensatory damages.

         On August 19, 2016, Defendant filed its Motion for a New Trial or Remittitur, arguing that there was not substantial evidence on which a jury could base an award of $63, 000.00. The Court found that there was no evidence to support an award of $63, 000.00 because Plaintiff had argued for a much higher amount and Defendant had argued that the prototype had little to no value. Accordingly, the Court granted Defendant's motion and ordered a new trial on damages.

         A second trial on damages was held on February 21, 2018. Plaintiff and Defendant made similar arguments as to the fair market value of the prototype. After deliberation, the jury awarded Plaintiff $100.00 in damages.

         On March 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant motion, arguing that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative, a new trial on damages because Defendant failed to introduce any “competent evidence” of the prototype's value and because the Court erred on several evidentiary rulings. (ECF No. 77, pp. 3-7). Defendant opposes the motion.

         DISCUSSION

         The Court now addresses whether Plaintiff is entitled to judgment as a matter of law or, alternatively, to a new trial on damages.

         I. Whether Plaintiff is Entitled to Judgement as a Matter of Law or Alternatively to a New Trial on Damages

         Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate when “the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1). Post-verdict judgment as a matter of law is appropriate only where the evidence is entirely insufficient to support the verdict. Belk v. City of Eldon, 228 F.3d 872, 877-78 (8th Cir. 2000). Moreover, a new trial should be only granted to avoid a “miscarriage of justice.” Id.

         A. Judgment as a Matter of Law

         Plaintiff argues that he is entitled to judgement as a matter of law because Defendant did not produce any “competent evidence” of the prototype's fair market value at trial. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that Defendant's witness was not qualified to estimate the value of the prototype because the witness did not buy or sell prototypes and only dealt in finished products. Plaintiff further contends that the jury's award was improperly based on evidence that Plaintiff declared ...


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