Atkins v. New York City, No. 10274

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtSCHWARZER
Citation143 F.3d 100
PartiesJames ATKINS, Plaintiff--Appellant, v. NEW YORK CITY, the New York City Police Department, Justice, ShieldO. TUDOR, Shieldnknown, Sergeant Betterly, Shieldnknown, Detective Williams, Shieldnknown, individually, and in their official capacities as police officers of the City of New York, Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date05 May 1998
Docket NumberNo. U,No. 97-7899,No. 10274,P

Page 100

143 F.3d 100
James ATKINS, Plaintiff--Appellant,
v.
NEW YORK CITY, the New York City Police Department, Justice,
Shield No. 10274, P.O. TUDOR, Shield No. Unknown, Sergeant
Betterly, Shield No. Unknown, Detective Williams, Shield No.
Unknown, individually, and in their official capacities as
police officers of the City of New York, Defendants-Appellees.
No. 97-7899.
United States Court of Appeals,
Second Circuit.
Argued Feb. 26, 1998.
Decided May 5, 1998.

Page 101

David N. Yaffe, Melville, NY (Richard Hamburger, Lane T. Maxson, Richard Charles Hamburger, P.C., Melville, NY, Frederick Brewington, Hempstead, NY, of counsel), for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Steven J. Rappaport, New York City (Paul A. Crotty, Corporation Counsel of City of New York, Larry A. Sonnenshein, New York City, of counsel), for Defendants-Appellees.

Before: WINTER, Chief Judge, PARKER, Circuit Judge, and SCHWARZER, Senior District Judge *.

SCHWARZER, Senior District Judge:

The question before us is whether, given undisputed evidence of serious injury resulting from force used in an arrest, an award of only nominal damages can follow a finding of excessive force and whether, if not, both liability and damages must be retried given the facts of the case.

A. Procedural Background

Appellant James Atkins ("Atkins") brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against New York City, the New York City Police Department, and Police Officers Justice and Tudor, Police Sergeant Betterly, and Police Detective Williams, for damages caused by deprivation of his constitutional rights in connection with his arrest and subsequent detention. After a five-day trial, the jury found that Justice had falsely arrested and detained Atkins and had used excessive force to

Page 102

stop and arrest him, and that Tudor and Williams had failed to intervene in the arrest and use of excessive force. It found in favor of Betterly on all claims. The jury awarded Atkins $1 in nominal damages, denying him compensatory and punitive damages. Atkins moved under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59 for a new trial limited to the issue of damages on the ground that under the jury's liability findings he was entitled to compensatory damages as a matter of law. Atkins also moved for attorneys' fees and costs under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The district court for the Eastern District of New York (Ross, J.) denied the motions and entered judgment, and Atkins appeals from the denial of his new trial motion. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291; see Haywood v. Koehler, 78 F.3d 101, 104 (2d Cir.1996) (denial of motion for new trial rejecting claim that plaintiff is entitled to compensatory award as a matter of law is reviewable). We vacate the judgment and remand for a new trial.

B. Standard of Review

"A motion for a new trial ordinarily should not be granted unless the trial court is convinced that the jury has reached a seriously erroneous result or that the verdict is a miscarriage of justice." Lightfoot v. Union Carbide Corp., 110 F.3d 898, 911 (2d Cir.1997) (internal notations and quotations omitted). Here, the district court held that a new trial was not warranted because "it was neither seriously erroneous nor unjust for the jury to have concluded ... that although three of the defendants had violated plaintiff's constitutional rights, the violations themselves caused plaintiff no compensable injuries." On review of the district court's ruling, we must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Gibeau v. Nellis, 18 F.3d 107, 109 (2d Cir.1994), and will reverse only if the trial court's denial of the new trial motion constitutes an abuse of discretion. Dailey v. Societe Generale, 108 F.3d 451, 458 (2d Cir.1997).

C. Facts

The altercation that gave rise to Atkins's claims began when the officers staked out a location in East New York on a tip that a drug transaction would take place. The officers observed a man who appeared to be checking them out and who then spoke to occupants of two cars that had circled the block observing the officers. The cars stopped and the officers saw several men exit, one (later identified as Atkins) with his jacket open and his hands in his pockets. Suspecting the men to be armed, the officers exited their car with guns drawn. Officer Justice approached Atkins, yelling, "Police. Take your hands out of your pockets." According to Justice, Atkins then took his right hand out and swung at him. To ward off the blow, Justice struck him on the forehead with his police radio, and then spun him around and forced him to the ground and handcuffed him. Justice testified that he arrested Atkins for disorderly conduct for not removing his hands from his pockets and taking a swing at him, for resisting arrest because Atkins resisted when he swung him to the ground, and for loitering because Atkins allegedly was in the area to buy drugs. Atkins testified that he had been hit so hard he was...

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134 practice notes
  • Ramsey v. Busch, No. 93-CV-921S(F).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • August 25, 1998
    ...Street Bank International, 821 F.2d 897, 902 (2d Cir.1987). This principle applies equally to § 1983 actions. Atkins v. New York City, 143 F.3d 100, 103 (2d Cir.1998). "[N]either compensation nor enrichment is a valid purpose of punitive damages." Vasbinder v. Scott, 976 F.2d 118, 121 (2d C......
  • U.S. v. Brown, Docket No. 02-1135.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • December 16, 2003
    ...here, thereby relinquishing the argument that Brown has waived, as opposed to forfeited, her objection. See Atkins v. New York City, 143 F.3d 100, 103 (2d Cir.1998) (noting that litigants can "waive[] the waiver point"). There is, therefore, no question that we review defendant's religion-b......
  • U.S. v. Triumph Capital Group, Inc., Docket No. 06-4970-cr.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • September 25, 2008
    ...or that the verdict is a miscarriage of justice.'" Smith v. Carpenter, 316 F.3d 178, 183 (2d Cir.2003) (quoting Atkins v. N.Y. City, 143 F.3d 100, 102 (2d Cir.1998)). A district court has "broad discretion ... to set aside a jury verdict and order a new trial to avert a perceived miscarriag......
  • Perdue v. City University of New York, No. 93-CV-5939 FB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • June 17, 1998
    ...that the jury has reached a seriously erroneous result or that the verdict is a miscarriage of justice.'" Atkins v. New York City, 143 F.3d 100, 101 (2d Cir.1998) (quoting Lightfoot v. Union Carbide Corp., 110 F.3d 898, 911 (2d Cir.1997)); see Song v. Ives Lab., Inc., 957 F.2d 1041, 1046 (2......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
134 cases
  • Ramsey v. Busch, No. 93-CV-921S(F).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • August 25, 1998
    ...Street Bank International, 821 F.2d 897, 902 (2d Cir.1987). This principle applies equally to § 1983 actions. Atkins v. New York City, 143 F.3d 100, 103 (2d Cir.1998). "[N]either compensation nor enrichment is a valid purpose of punitive damages." Vasbinder v. Scott, 976 F.2d 118, 121 (2d C......
  • U.S. v. Brown, Docket No. 02-1135.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • December 16, 2003
    ...here, thereby relinquishing the argument that Brown has waived, as opposed to forfeited, her objection. See Atkins v. New York City, 143 F.3d 100, 103 (2d Cir.1998) (noting that litigants can "waive[] the waiver point"). There is, therefore, no question that we review defendant's religion-b......
  • U.S. v. Triumph Capital Group, Inc., Docket No. 06-4970-cr.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • September 25, 2008
    ...or that the verdict is a miscarriage of justice.'" Smith v. Carpenter, 316 F.3d 178, 183 (2d Cir.2003) (quoting Atkins v. N.Y. City, 143 F.3d 100, 102 (2d Cir.1998)). A district court has "broad discretion ... to set aside a jury verdict and order a new trial to avert a perceived miscarriag......
  • Perdue v. City University of New York, No. 93-CV-5939 FB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • June 17, 1998
    ...that the jury has reached a seriously erroneous result or that the verdict is a miscarriage of justice.'" Atkins v. New York City, 143 F.3d 100, 101 (2d Cir.1998) (quoting Lightfoot v. Union Carbide Corp., 110 F.3d 898, 911 (2d Cir.1997)); see Song v. Ives Lab., Inc., 957 F.2d 1041, 1046 (2......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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