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Landeros v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

United States District Court, D. Nevada

May 3, 2019



         Presently before the court is defendant Joseph Parra's (“Officer Parra”) renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law. (ECF No. 93). Plaintiffs Angel Landeros (“Landeros”) and Amelia Villalba (collectively, “plaintiffs”) filed a response (ECF No. 97), to which defendant replied (ECF No. 100).

         Also before the court is defendant Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's (“LVMPD”) motion for remittitur. (ECF No. 94). No. response has been filed, and the time to do so has passed.

         Lastly before the court is plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees and costs. (ECF No. 96). LVMPD filed a response (ECF No. 99), to which plaintiffs replied. (ECF No. 101).

         I. Facts

         The factual and procedural history of this case is generally undisputed. See (ECF No. 39). On February 8, 2013, LVMPD Officers Parra, Clyde Villanueva, and Scott Thomas (collectively, “the officers”) were attempting to execute the arrest of violent criminal Roberto Torres, a non-party to this action, who was wanted for shooting his girlfriend in the head. (ECF No. 93 at 3). In attempting to execute Torres' arrest, the officers had been surveilling his whereabouts all day from their vehicles, which they had parked just outside his apartment complex. (ECF No. 97 at 2).

         Eventually, the officers observed Torres exit his apartment to join plaintiffs on the street. Id. Plaintiffs were meeting with Torres to attempt to sell him their car, which they had posted for sale online. Id. Plaintiffs did not know that Torres was a violent criminal with an active felony arrest warrant. Id.

         The officers were instructed to contact LMVPD's “Repeat Offender Team” (“ROP”) upon locating Torres so that ROP could effectuate Torres' arrest. Id. However, when the officers observed Torres about to enter the car with plaintiffs, they made the hurried decision to arrest Torres immediately and without the assistance of ROP. Id. at 2-3.

         Officers Parra and Villanueva, who were wearing identifiable LVMPD kevlar vests on top of their plain clothes, exited their vehicles with guns drawn and issued verbal commands for all three individuals to get on the ground. (ECF No. 93 at 3). Officer Thomas remained under cover down the street. Id. At some point during this interaction, while plaintiffs were in the process of complying with Officers Parra and Villanueva's verbal commands, Torres produced a firearm. (ECF No. 97 at 3).

         While the parties dispute whether Torres or Officer Parra opened fire first, it is undisputed that Torres was able to discharge at least one round from his firearm and that “[a]lmost simultaneously, ” Officer Parra shot at Torres. Id. Unfortunately, Officer Parra's shot missed Torres and struck plaintiff Landeros, causing him severe injury to his arm, torso, and spine. Id.

         Upon hearing and seeing the exchange of gunshots, Officer Thomas broke cover from down the street and fired six shots at Torres, killing him. Id. However, one of Officer Thomas' gunshots ricocheted and grazed Villalba's ankle, causing her minor injury. Id.

         Plaintiffs initiated the instant suit on September 18, 2014, against the officers and LVMPD for damages to compensate them for their injuries. (ECF No. 1). The complaint asserted various federal law claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as state law claims for assault, battery, and negligence. Id.

         Prior to trial, LVMPD and the officers made an offer of judgment to plaintiffs in the amount of $100, 000, with each party to bear its own attorneys fees and costs, in exchange for full and complete satisfaction of all claims. (ECF No. 96-1). Plaintiffs rejected the offer and proceeded to trial.

         Trial commenced on January 28, 2019. (ECF No. 81). At the close of evidence and during closing arguments, plaintiffs withdrew the following claims: (1) Landeros' Fourth Amendment excessive force claim against Officers Parra and Villanueva; (2) Landeros' state-law assault and battery claims; and (3) Villalba's state-law assault and battery claim. (ECF No. 93 at 4). Accordingly, the only claims submitted to the jury were Landeros' Fourteenth Amendment due process claim, Landeros' state law negligence claim, and Villalba's state law negligence claim. Id.

         Following closing arguments, defendants made their first oral motion for judgment as a matter of law, which the court denied. Thereafter, following several hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict which found for defendants on all claims except Landeros' state-law negligence claim against Officer Parra and awarded Landeros $225, 000 in damages. (ECF Nos. 90, 92).

         Thereafter, the parties filed the instant motions for judgment as a matter of law, remittitur, and attorney's fees and costs.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Rule 50(b), after the court enters judgment, a party may file a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 50. Rule 50 provides that judgment as a matter of law is appropriate if “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). Under Rule 50, the court reviews whether “substantial evidence” supports the jury verdict. See Hagen v. City of Eugene, 736 F.3d 1251, 1256 (9th Cir. 2013).

         A verdict is not supported by substantial evidence “when the evidence, construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, permits only one reasonable conclusion, which is contrary to the jury's verdict.” Id. In other words, Rule 50 “allows the trial court to remove cases or issues from the jury's consideration when the facts are sufficiently clear that the law requires a particular result.” Weisgram v. Marley Co., 528 U.S. 440, 448 (2000).

         III. ...

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