United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MONTI L. BELOT, District Judge.
This case comes before the court on Cintas' motion for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, motion for a new trial and motion to amend the judgment. (Doc. 163). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for decision. (Docs. 166, 168). Cintas' motion is granted in part and denied in part for the reasons herein.
This case was tried to a jury in late April and early May 2014. The jury heard testimony from twelve witnesses over seven trial days. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Underground Vaults & Storage (UVS) on May 14. (Doc. 159). The jury found that UVS and Cintas formed a joint venture, Cintas breached the joint venture, and Cintas breached its fiduciary duty to UVS. The jury awarded compensatory damages in the amount of $2, 892, 053 and punitive damages in the amount of $8, 000, 000.
Cintas moves for judgment as a matter of law on the basis that UVS failed to present legally sufficient evidence upon which the jury could have found for UVS on all of its claims. Alternatively, Cintas moves for a new trial on the basis that the jury's verdict is overwhelmingly against the weight of the evidence and that the court erred in instructing the jury on UVS' burden of proof. Finally, Cintas requests that the court alter or amend the judgment of punitive damages pursuant to Rule 59(e).
A. Judgment as a Matter of Law
Cintas moves for judgment as a matter of law on the grounds that UVS failed to present sufficient evidence to establish that 1) a joint venture existed; 2) Cintas breached the joint venture; 3) Cintas breached a fiduciary duty; and 4) Cintas acted in a willful or malicious manner. A renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law under Fed.R.Civ.P. 50 "may be granted only when, without weighing the credibility of the evidence, there can be but one reasonable conclusion as to the proper judgment." See Aerotech Res., Inc. v. Dodson Aviation, Inc. , 191 F.Supp.2d 1209, 1212-13 (D. Kan. 2002) (quoting Jackson v. City of Albuquerque , 890 F.2d 225, 230 (10th Cir. 1989)). Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate "only if the proof is all one way or so overwhelmingly preponderant in favor of the movant as to permit no other rational conclusion." Id . (quoting J.I. Case Credit Corp. v. Crites , 851 F.2d 309, 311 (10th Cir. 1988)). "In determining whether the grant of a motion for judgment n.o.v. is appropriate, the court must view the evidence and indulge all inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion and cannot weigh the evidence, consider the credibility of witnesses or substitute its judgment for that of the jury." Id.
1. Joint Venture
With respect to the formation and breach of the joint venture, the court instructed the jury as follows:
UVS claims that Cintas and UVS formed a joint venture/partnership.
A joint venture is an association of two or more corporations to carry out a single business enterprise for profit. A joint venture is legally similar to a partnership. A joint venture can exist only by the agreement of the parties, and such an agreement may be found in the mutual acts and conduct of the parties.
In deciding whether UVS and Cintas formed a joint venture/partnership, you may consider any of the following shown by the evidence:
(1) The joint ownership and control of property;
(2) The sharing of expenses, profits and losses, and having and exercising some voice in determining the division of the net earnings;
(3) A community of control over and active participation in the management and direction of the business enterprise;
(4) The intention of the parties, express or implied; and
(5) The fixing of salaries by joint agreement.
No single one of these acts is controlling in the determination of whether a ...