Bayes v. Biomet, Inc., 4:13-cv-00800-SRC

Decision Date02 August 2021
Docket Number4:13-cv-00800-SRC
PartiesMARY BAYES, et al., Plaintiffs, v. BIOMET, INC., et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Missouri
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

STEPHEN R. CLARK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Facing a jury verdict of $21 million, Biomet forwards a bevy of arguments in its attempt to persuade the Court to enter judgment in its favor. Such an approach does not surprise the Court given the high burden Biomet must meet for this Court to overturn the decision reached by the jury. However, try as it might, Biomet has failed to establish that judgment should be entered in its favor.

I. Background

The Court provided the relevant background in its ruling on Biomet's Motion to Alter the Judgment, Doc. 461 and therefore will not restate it in full here. Biomet previously moved for judgment as a matter of law before the close of evidence, Doc. 349, which the Court denied. Doc. 357 at 44:12-46:8. Pursuant to Rule 50(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Biomet renews its Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law on Plaintiffs' negligent-design claim and on the loss-of-consortium claim that derives from the negligent-design claim. Doc. 438.

II. Standard

Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs motions for judgment as a matter of law. It provides, in part:

(a) Judgment as a Matter of Law.

(1) In General. If a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue, the court may:
(A) resolve the issue against the party; and
(B) grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against the party on a claim or defense that, under the controlling law, can be maintained or defeated only with a favorable finding on that issue.
(2) Motion. A motion for judgment as a matter of law may be made at any time before the case is submitted to the jury. The motion must specify the judgment sought and the law and facts that entitle the movant to the judgment.
(b) Renewing the Motion After Trial; Alternative Motion for a New Trial. If the court does not grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law made under Rule 50(a), the court is considered to have submitted the action to the jury subject to the court's later deciding the legal questions raised by the motion. No later than 28 days after the entry of judgment-or if the motion addresses a jury issue not decided by a verdict, no later than 28 days after the jury was discharged-the movant may file a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law and may include an alternative or joint request for a new trial under Rule 59. In ruling on the renewed motion, the court may:
(1) allow judgment on the verdict, if the jury returned a verdict;
(2) order a new trial; or
(3) direct the entry of judgment as a matter of law.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a)-(b). Rule 50(b) provides for post-trial renewal of a Rule 50(a) trial motion for judgment as a matter of law. A court reviewing a Rule 50(b) motion is limited to consideration of only those grounds advanced in the original, Rule 50(a) motion.” Nassar v. Jackson, 779 F.3d 547, 551 (8th Cir. 2015) (citing Graham Const. Servs. v. Hammer & Steel Inc., 755 F.3d 611, 617-18 (8th Cir. 2014)).

[T]he law places a high standard on overturning a jury verdict because of the danger that the jury's rightful province will be invaded when judgment as a matter of law is misused.” Bavlsik v. Gen. Motors, LLC, 870 F.3d 800, 805 (8th Cir. 2017). “Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate only when all of the evidence points one way and is susceptible of no reasonable inference sustaining the position of the nonmoving party.” Allstate Indem. Co. v. Dixon, 932 F.3d 696, 702 (8th Cir. 2019), reh'g denied (Sept. 12, 2019) (quoting McKnight By & Through Ludwig v. Johnson Controls, Inc., 36 F.3d 1396, 1400 (8th Cir. 1994)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, when considering a motion for judgment as a matter of law, the Court must:

(1) consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party, (2) assume that all conflicts in the evidence were resolved in favor of the prevailing party, (3) assume as proved all facts that the prevailing party's evidence tended to prove, and (4) give the prevailing party the benefit of all favorable inferences that may reasonably be drawn from the facts proved. That done, the court must then deny the motion if reasonable persons could differ as to the conclusions to be drawn from the evidence.

Bavlsik, 870 F.3d at 805 (quoting Ryther v. KARE 11, 108 F.3d 832, 844 (8th Cir. 1997) (en banc)). Against this high bar, the Court considers Biomet's motion.

III. Discussion
A. Jury verdict

Biomet's first argument rehashes the argument raised in its Motion to Alter the Judgment, Doc. 436, contending that the jury verdict for Biomet on the strict-liability design-defect claim unavoidably means that Plaintiffs failed to produce sufficient evidence necessary to satisfy at least one of the elements of the negligent-design claim. For the reasons stated in its ruling on Biomet's Motion to Alter the Judgment, see Doc. 461, the Court finds that Biomet is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Moreover, Biomet's argument also fails because it did not move for judgment as a matter of law on the specific element of “used in a manner reasonably anticipated, ” see Doc. 362 at p. 11, in its Rule 50(a) motion. As stated above, Rule 50(b) motions are limited only to those matters that were raised in the pre-verdict Rule 50(a) motion. Nassar, 779 F.3d at 551 (citing Graham Const. Servs., 755 F.3d at 617-18). Thus, because Biomet did not move for judgment as matter of law on the element of “used in a manner reasonably anticipated, ” Doc. 362 at p. 11, until after the jury returned its verdict, and not in its Rule 50(a) motion, the Court cannot consider this argument in this Rule 50(b) motion.

This case is also distinguishable from Ridgell v. City of Pine Bluff, 935 F.3d 633 (8th Cir. 2019), on which Biomet relies. Doc. 439 at p. 9 n.2. There, a former city employee sued the mayor and the city for discrimination. Ridgell, 935 F.3d at 635. At the close of evidence, both the mayor and city moved for judgment as a matter of law on the discrimination claims, which the court denied. Id. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the employee, but against the city. Id. The city then filed a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative, to alter or amend the judgment pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 50(b) and 59. Id. The city argued that once the jury found for the mayor, it necessarily followed that it could not be liable. Id.

The plaintiff argued that the city waived this argument by failing to raise it in its motion for judgment as a matter of law at the close of evidence. Id. The court found that the city did not waive the specific argument by not raising it in a pre-submission motion. Id. It explained that the pre-submission motions focused on whether the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence against the mayor and city on the discrimination claims. Id. However, the city's argument that a verdict in favor of the mayor required a judgment in its favor only became ripe after the jury reached its verdict in favor of the mayor. Id. Accordingly, the court found that the city timely raised the argument. Id.

But the argument raised by Biomet does not mirror the one raised by the city in Ridgell. Biomet does not merely argue that the jury's verdict on the strict-liability claim entitles it to judgment in its favor on the negligent-design claim. Rather it argues that because it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the element of “used in a manner reasonably anticipated, ” Doc. 362 at p. 11, that necessarily means the jury's verdict in its favor on the strict-liability claim entitles it to judgment on the negligent-design claim. Biomet thus makes a two-part request- first asking the Court to find that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the specific element of “used in a manner reasonably anticipated, ” id., and then after making such a finding, to find that the jury's verdict in Biomet's favor on the strict-liability claim necessitates judgment in its favor on the negligent-design claim. However, Biomet's argument that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the element of “used in a manner reasonably anticipated, ” id., became ripe before the jury retired to deliberate, not after the jury rendered its verdict in favor of Biomet on the strict-liability claim. Nassar, 779 F.3d at 551, 552; Doc. 349 (Biomet's Rule 50(a) motion failing to seek judgment on the element of “used in a manner reasonably anticipated”); Doc. 461. Stated differently, before jury deliberations began, Biomet could have known that it had a basis to move for judgment as a matter of law on the element of “used in a manner reasonably anticipated, Doc. 362 at p. 11, based on the evidence presented at trial. Nassar, 779 F.3d at 552. By failing to raise this argument at that time, Biomet cannot raise it for the first-time in a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law. Nassar, 779 F.3d at 551-552 (citing Graham Const. Servs., 755 F.3d at 617-18). Moreover, in contrast to Ridgell in which the court found that the verdicts could not be harmonized, the verdicts here can be harmonized. See Doc. 461.

B. Sufficiency of the evidence on the negligent-design-defect claim

Biomet argues that Plaintiffs failed to offer sufficient evidence to create a jury question on several issues, including design defect, the standard of care, and causation. The Court addresses each in turn.

1. Design defect

Biomet argues that Plaintiffs failed to...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT