Corriz v. Naranjo, No. 80-1462

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore BARRETT, DOYLE and McKAY; McKAY; WILLIAM E. DOYLE; McKay; McKay's; BARRETT
Citation667 F.2d 892
PartiesLarry CORRIZ, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Emilio NARANJO, Steve Martinez, Canuto Martinez, and Rio Arriba County Sheriff's Department, Defendants-Appellants.
Docket NumberNo. 80-1462
Decision Date08 February 1982

Page 892

667 F.2d 892
Larry CORRIZ, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Emilio NARANJO, Steve Martinez, Canuto Martinez, and Rio
Arriba County Sheriff's Department, Defendants-Appellants.
No. 80-1462.
United States Court of Appeals,
Tenth Circuit.
Argued May 11, 1981.
Decided Dec. 9, 1981.
Rehearing Denied Feb. 8, 1982.

Page 893

Lynn Pickard of Pickard & Singleton, Santa Fe, N. M. (Steve Herrera, Santa Fe, N. M., and Richard H. Rosenstock, Chama, N. M., with him on the brief), for plaintiff-appellee.

George R. Glass of Kegel, McCabe & Montez, Santa Fe, N. M., for defendant-appellant Emilio Naranjo.

Steven L. Tucker of Jones, Gallegos, Snead & Wertheim, Santa Fe, N. M., with him on the brief, for defendants-appellants.

Before BARRETT, DOYLE and McKAY, Circuit Judges.

McKAY, Circuit Judge.

This appeal primarily challenges a jury verdict for compensatory damages in a suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as being so excessive as to require the grant of a new trial on the issue of damages. The facts recited herein are either uncontested or consistent with the jury's verdict.

Plaintiff Larry Corriz, then 18 years of age, was driving his car to Santa Fe, New Mexico, on September 3, 1976, when he stopped to visit with two friends who were

Page 894

sitting in their parked car in an arroyo next to the road. Larry parked his car alongside theirs and the three conversed through the car window. His friends were drinking beer in their car. A few minutes later, Rio Arriba County Deputy Sheriffs Steve Martinez and Canuto Martinez arrived. Steve Martinez was drunk. Claiming that they smelled marijuana, the deputies arrested Larry's two friends. The friends informed the deputies that Larry was not involved and was only an innocent bystander. Nevertheless, Deputy Canuto Martinez twice searched Larry's person and his car. He then told Larry to leave, whereupon Larry got in his car, backed out of the arroyo and proceeded to drive toward Santa Fe. At that point, Deputy Steve Martinez drew his gun and fired at Larry. Steve Martinez testified that he believed Larry was escaping custody. The bullet penetrated the trunk, the back seat and the front seat before striking Larry in the back, causing a painful abrasion but sparing his life. Larry continued driving to a hospital where he was treated. He testified that he suffered great pain and emotional distress as a result of the shooting.

After learning of the incident from his deputies, Sheriff Emilio Naranjo went to the hospital to check on Larry's condition. Sheriff Naranjo then asked the District Attorney's office to investigate the matter. The District Attorney's office dispatched investigator Freddie Martinez to look into the matter. Investigator Martinez found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the sheriff's deputies. As a result of this investigation, the District Attorney ordered charges to be filed against Larry for escaping custody. This order was relayed by Investigator Martinez to Lieutenant Griego of the sheriff's office. Lieutenant Griego directed Sargeant Joe Salazar to file charges against Larry, which he did on September 15, 1976. The record contains testimony that the District Attorney's office had cooperated in the past in the prosecution of false criminal charges to aid Sheriff Naranjo in the defense of civil suits against him.

This was only the beginning of Larry's encounter with Rio Arriba County officials. Sometime after the initial shooting, unidentified deputy sheriffs stopped Larry's car, informing him they had a warrant for his arrest. When they refused to show him the warrant, Larry drove off. The deputies fired a barrage of shots at his car and followed him home, but did not arrest him.

The September 3rd shooting came to the attention of Antonio De Vargas, chairman of La Raza Unida, a minor political party in Rio Arriba County which views its primary purpose as halting further entrenchment of the Democratic Party machine in the county. Sheriff Naranjo and his deputies are members of the Democratic party; indeed, Sheriff Naranjo is the county chairman of the party. Mr. De Vargas visited Larry and his family and advised them to complain to the authorities about the September 3rd shooting. At that time no charges had yet been filed against Larry. Mr. De Vargas wrote to the New Mexico Attorney General on behalf of the Corriz family, urging removal of Sheriff Naranjo because of the shooting. The Attorney General was already conducting an investigation of allegations of corruption and abuses by Rio Arriba County officials, focusing particularly on Sheriff Naranjo.

On September 14, 1976, a local newspaper reported the substance of Mr. De Vargas' complaint to the Attorney General. The very next day Sargeant Salazar officially charged Larry with escaping custody, and an arrest warrant was issued. Larry voluntarily surrendered to magistrate court, which released him on a property bond. In May of 1977, Larry moved to dismiss the charge for failure to prosecute within the time required by New Mexico law, and the motion was granted.

Larry's complaint alleged four causes of action. Count One states a claim under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants Naranjo, Steve Martinez, Canuto Martinez and the Sheriff's Department deprived him of liberty without due process of law. More specifically, he alleged that the defendants invaded his fundamental

Page 895

rights, protected by the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment, to be free from illegal detention, the threat of illegal imprisonment, physical abuse, and unlawful arrest without evidence to support the charge. Count Two is a pendent state law claim of malicious prosecution against Sheriff Naranjo, the Sheriff's Department, Steve Martinez and Canuto Martinez. Count Three is a pendent state law claim of assault and battery against Steve Martinez only. The jury awarded damages as follows: on Count One, against all four defendants in the sum of $30,000; on Count Two, against Sheriff Naranjo and the Sheriff's Department in the sum of $30,000; and on Count Three, against Steve Martinez in the sum of $2,273. The jury also awarded punitive damages in the amount of $30,000 against Sheriff Naranjo, $20,000 against Steve Martinez, and $10,000 against Canuto Martinez.

I.

Defendants contend on appeal that the jury's verdict was excessive as a matter of law and represents "double recovery" for the same injuries. Plaintiff asserts that defendants' challenges to the jury instructions and verdicts were not properly preserved for review.

Rule 51 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that:

At the close of the evidence or at such earlier time during the trial as the court reasonably directs, any party may file written requests that the court instruct the jury on the law as set forth in the requests. The court shall inform counsel of its proposed action upon the requests prior to their arguments to the jury, but the court shall instruct the jury after the arguments are completed. No party may assign as error the giving or the failure to give an instruction unless he objects thereto before the jury retires to consider its verdict, stating distinctly the matter to which he objects and the grounds of his objection. Opportunity shall be given to make objection out of the hearing of the jury.

The record reflects that counsel for defendants did not adequately posit their objection to the jury instructions as allowing duplicative recovery for the same injuries. Before the jury began its deliberations, the court afforded counsel an opportunity to object to the instructions. Counsel for defendants did object to several instructions, all of which objections were overruled. Counsel objected to the inclusion of the malicious prosecution claim in the statement of claims instruction (Instruction No. 4) on the grounds that "the evidence shows that (it) should be dismissed from the case as a matter of law." Counsel objected to the deprivation of liberty instruction (Instruction No. 20) on the basis that "(a)fter the Court has already stated the claims of the parties in instruction number 4 it repeats, it repeats (sic) those claims and reemphasizes the claims of alleged misconduct and deprivation of rights." Counsel also claimed that the deprivation of liberty without due process issue "is not applicable to the facts here" and is "not truly an issue framed by the evidence." Counsel further objected to the elements of damage instruction (Instruction No. 42) on the ground that it instructed the jury to compensate the plaintiff for the various aspects of liberty of which he was deprived, such as the right to be free from physical abuse. Error was claimed "in that violation of civil rights in themselves would be, would create liability but are not measures of damages." "The further problem with it," counsel continued, is that there is "(n)o guide either in the law or in the proof of how you set a dollar amount of any sort on that kind of a-for damage calculation under that standard." Counsel also objected to the instruction concerning the measure of damages for violation of constitutional rights (Instruction No. 43) which instructed the jury that "(t)he value of such rights, while difficult to assess, must be considered great." Specifically, counsel objected that Instruction No. 43 "is telling the jury that this element of damage must be assessed as being a damage that's of great size." Defendants' other objections are not pertinent here.

Page 896

It is obvious from a review of defendants' objections to the jury instructions that no objection was made to allowing the jury to return damage verdicts under each Count of the complaint. The objection to submission of the malicious prosecution claim has nothing to do with defendants' assertion that the instructions allowed multiple recovery of damages for a single injury. The objection to Instruction No. 20 is similarly irrelevant to defendants' claim on...

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28 practice notes
  • Higgs v. District Court In and For Douglas County, Nos. 83SA493
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • December 2, 1985
    ...S.Ct. 1042, 55 L.Ed.2d 252 (1978); Crawford v. Garnier, 719 F.2d 1317 (7th Cir.1983) (action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983); Corriz v. Naranjo, 667 F.2d 892 (10th Cir.1981), cert. granted, 456 U.S. 971, 102 S.Ct. 2233, 72 L.Ed.2d 844, cert. dismissed per stipulation, 458 U.S. 1123, 103 S.Ct. 5, 73......
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    ...the Court's attention to cases in which courts upheld large jury verdicts for compensatory damages. See cases cited in Corriz v. Naranjo, 667 F.2d 892, 898 (10th Cir. 1981), cert. granted, ___ U.S. ___, 102 S.Ct. 2233, 72 L.Ed.2d 844 (1982). Plaintiff should note, however, that Corriz and t......
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    ...damages are not quantifiable with precision, his injuries nonetheless give rise to actual consequential damages. See Corriz v. Naranjo, 667 F.2d 892, 898 (10th Cir.1981), cert. granted, 456 U.S. 971, 102 S.Ct. 2233, 72 L.Ed.2d 844, cert. dismissed, 458 U.S. 1123, 103 S.Ct. 5, 73 L.Ed.2d 139......
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  • Holloway v. Wittry, No. 4-92-CV-30285.
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    ...damages are not quantifiable with precision, his injuries nonetheless give rise to actual consequential damages. See Corriz v. Naranjo, 667 F.2d 892, 898 (10th Cir.1981), cert. granted, 456 U.S. 971, 102 S.Ct. 2233, 72 L.Ed.2d 844, cert. dismissed, 458 U.S. 1123, 103 S.Ct. 5, 73 L.Ed.2d 139......
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    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
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    ...S.Ct. 1042, 55 L.Ed.2d 252 (1978); Crawford v. Garnier, 719 F.2d 1317 (7th Cir.1983) (action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983); Corriz v. Naranjo, 667 F.2d 892 (10th Cir.1981), cert. granted, 456 U.S. 971, 102 S.Ct. 2233, 72 L.Ed.2d 844, cert. dismissed per stipulation, 458 U.S. 1123, 103 S.Ct. 5, 73......
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