United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
Decedent, James Leoma Gaddy alleged that he was diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos while working at International Paper from 1948 to 1950, and while working as a chemical engineer at Ethyl Corporation (“Ethyl”) from 1955 to 1960. Gaddy filed suit against numerous entities, but only Ethyl remained at the time of trial. Ethyl removed the case to federal court on diversity jurisdiction grounds, and a jury trial commenced in November 2019. At the close of all proofs, both parties made Rule 50 motions for judgment as a matter of law, and both motions were denied. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Gaddy’s estate, awarding $7,500,000 in general damages (comprised of $2,500,000 for physical pain and suffering, $2,500,000 for mental anguish, and $2,500,000 for loss of enjoyment of life), and $250,661.45 in medical expenses. The jury also assigned liability to two other entities. As such, final judgement was entered against Ethyl in the amount of $2,583,553.82, which represented one-third of the total award.
Ethyl filed a post-trial motion seeking remittitur, and requesting a new trial. The court, in ruling on that motion, found that the jury’s award was not within the range that a reasonable jury could have appropriately awarded based on the evidence, and remitted the general damages award to $3,000,000. Plaintiffs then moved the court to review the judgement and order under Rule 59(e), arguing that other jury verdicts in similar cases have awarded higher damages, and arguing that the court appeared to only consider the lack of evidentiary support for Gaddy’s physical pain and suffering.
On consideration of Plaintiffs’ motion, the court held that Plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate that they were entitled to the extraordinary remedy of reconsideration, as they provided no additional evidence and failed to demonstrate that the court’s order was based on a manifest error of law or fact. The court declined to disturb its previous order which was based upon careful consideration of the authorities cited by both parties and independent research, as it was convinced that the remitted damages award was the maximum sum that a reasonable jury could have awarded based on the specific facts of the case.