83 F.3d 942 (8th Cir. 1996), 95-3116, Butler v. French

Docket Nº:95-3116.
Citation:83 F.3d 942
Party Name:Bobby R. BUTLER, Appellant, v. Darce FRENCH, d/b/a Darce French Trucking Company, and Don C. French, Appellees.
Case Date:April 25, 1996
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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83 F.3d 942 (8th Cir. 1996)

Bobby R. BUTLER, Appellant,


Darce FRENCH, d/b/a Darce French Trucking Company, and Don

C. French, Appellees.

No. 95-3116.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

April 25, 1996

Submitted March 15, 1996.

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas; Hon. Susan W. Wright, U.S.D.C., Judge.

Gail Gaus Renshaw, Wood River, IL, argued, for appellant.

Julia Busfield, Little Rock, AR, argued (Rick Runnells, on the brief), for appellees.



Don French was driving a tractor-trailer truck when it collided with the train in which Bobby Butler was working. Alleging Mr. French's negligence and personal injury to himself, Mr. Butler sued the railroad, Mr. French, and the trucking company for which Mr. French worked. Mr. Butler settled with the railroad, and, after a three-day trial, a jury found Mr. French and the trucking company not liable to Mr. Butler. The trial court denied Mr. Butler's subsequent motion for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new trial.

Mr. Butler appeals, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the verdict; in the alternative, that the trial court improperly denied him a new trial; that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting evidence regarding Mr. Butler's past problems with alcohol abuse; and that the trial court wrongly precluded him from introducing into evidence some photographs taken of the train and the truck at the site after the accident. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Mr. Butler first argues that the trial court should have granted his motion for judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1), Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b)(1)(A). Because such a motion deals with a "question [that] is a legal one, whether there is sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict," White v. Pence, 961 F.2d 776, 779 (8th Cir.1992), our review of the trial court's action is de novo. See, e.g., Rockport Pharmacy, Inc. v. Digital Simplistics, Inc., 53 F.3d 195, 197 (8th Cir.1995).

Mr. Butler acknowledges the holdings of this court that, in ruling on such a motion, a court "must analyze the evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party [in this case, the defendants] and must not engage in a weighing or evaluation of the evidence or consider questions of credibility," and that for such a motion to be granted, "all the evidence must point one way and be susceptible of no reasonable inference sustaining the position of the nonmoving party [in this case, the defendants]." White, 961 F.2d at 779; see also 9A Charles Alan Wright and Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 2d § 2524 at 255-59 (1995). Mr. Butler contends, however, that we should consider as well certain uncontradicted evidence favorable to him. See, e.g., Frieze v. Boatmen's Bank of Belton, 950 F.2d 538, 540 (8th Cir.1991), and Caudill v. Farmland Industries, Inc., 919 F.2d 83, 86 (8th Cir.1990); see also Dace v. ACF Industries, Inc., 722 F.2d 374, 377 n. 6 (8th Cir.1983), supplemented on petition for rehearing, 728 F.2d 976 (8th Cir.1984) (per curiam ). Assuming, without holding, that that approach is an appropriate one, see, e.g., 9A Charles Alan Wright and Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice § 2529 at 299-300, we are satisfied that Mr. Butler was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

In fact, the evidence that Mr. Butler points to is not only uncontradicted, it came from the defendant himself. Mr. Butler directs attention to the fact, which Mr. French admitted at trial, that Mr. French pleaded guilty to a charge of failure to yield as evidence of negligence that must be credited in determining whether Mr. French made out a submissible case on his lack of negligence. But Mr. French testified that he simply felt that it was easier to pay than to contest the ticket. Mr. French's excuse for colliding with the train, moreover, was that he was blinded by glare from the sun and could not see the train in time to stop, and a state trooper testified that Mr. French told him the same thing at the scene of the accident. The jury was free to accept Mr. French's explanations. Mr. Butler also relies on the

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fact that while on the witness stand Mr. French acknowledged his duty to be careful when approaching a railroad crossing and to stop if a train was coming. But this is not evidence of any relevant fact. If it is anything, it is a concession as to what the law is. In any case, it is nothing but argument. The same can be said of Mr. French's admission that a crossing with a flashing light (as in this case) requires more caution than one with a gate.

Finally, Mr. Butler points to Mr. French's admission that he was familiar with the railroad crossing and his concession that a slower approach would have given him a longer time to see the train coming. But Mr. Butler fails to connect the first of these admissions to any negligence on Mr. French's part. The second admission is, on one level, a statement of incontrovertible scientific fact and, on another, simply a matter of common sense. It is not evidence of anything. On either level, it cannot serve to take the case from the jury in the face of Mr. French's testimony that glare from the sun blinded him. There was no evidence that would require the jury to find that the glare or its effects...

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