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Hill v. Hoisington

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 1, 2014

RO'KRISTIAN BROADNAX HILL, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPUTY SHERIFF HOISINGTON, Defendant

For Ro' Kristian Broadnax Hill, Plaintiff: Brian R. Garves, Grosse Pointe Shores, MI; Lisa A. Neville, Fieger, Fieger, Kenney, Giroux, Danzig & Harrington, P.C., Southfield, MI; Martin T. Shepherd, Fieger, Fieger, Kenney, Giroux & Danzig, P.C., Southfield, MI; Robert M. Giroux, Jr., Fieger, Fieger, Southfield, MI; Sima G. Patel - NOT SWORN, Fieger, Fieger, Kenney, Southfield, MI; Michael T. Ratton, FiegerLaw, Southfield, MI.

For Hosington, Deputy, Defendant: Keith J. Lerminiaux, Oakland County Corporation Counsel, Pontiac, MI; Rick J. Patterson, Steven M. Potter, Potter, DeAgostino, O'Dea & Patterson, Auburn Hills, MI.

Page 726

ORDER ENTERING JUDGMENT ON THE JURY VERDICT; FINDING MOOT PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ENTRY OF JUDGMENT ON THE JURY VERDICT [114], MOTION FOR TAXABLE COSTS [115], AND MOTION FOR JUDGMENT NOT WITHSTANDING THE VERDICT [122]; AND REQUIRING THE FILING OF AMENDED MOTIONS FOR COSTS

HONORABLE ARTHUR J. TARNOW, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Before the Court are Plaintiff Hill's Motion for Entry of Judgment on the Jury Verdict [114], Motion for Taxable Costs [115], and Motion for Judgment Not Withstanding the Verdict, or in the Alternative, New Trial on Plaintiff's Excessive Force Claim [122].

Plaintiff was held in Oakland County Jail from April 4, 2009 to August 17, 2009, awaiting trial on criminal charges. On August 17, 2009, Plaintiff was acquitted of all criminal charges in Oakland County Court. Rather than immediately releasing Plaintiff from custody, Plaintiff was instead taken back to Oakland County Jail for processing. On the same day, while being held in custody at Oakland County Jail, Plaintiff and Defendant Hosington were involved in a physical altercation.

On January 27, 2011, Plaintiff commenced an action against Defendant in this Court. Plaintiff's Complaint [1] made several claims against Defendant arising from this August 17, 2009 altercation.

A jury trial commenced in this matter on August 27, 2013. Before the jury were

Page 727

Plaintiff's claims of excessive force and battery. On August 30, 2013, the jury entered its verdict finding that Defendant Hosington did not use excessive force, but that Defendant did commit a battery against Plaintiff. The jury then found compensatory damages of $5,000 and punitive damages of $37,500.

In the pleadings now before the Court, the parties dispute whether the jury erred in finding in favor of Defendant as to Plaintiff's excessive force claim. It appears that this dispute is at least in part based on the parties' unsupported assumption that punitive damages are not available for the state law intentional tort of battery, rendering the jury verdict internally inconsistent.

The Court disagrees and now finds the jury verdict's award of punitive damages proper and consistent with the entirety of the jury verdict.

As is the case here, " [w]hen a tort action is brought in federal court []basing liability on state law, the court must apply state law in regard to availability and computation of damages." Losey v. No. Am. Philips Consumer Elecs. Corp., 792 F.2d 58, 62 (6th Cir. 1986); see also Browning-Ferris Indus. of Vt., Inc. v. Kelco Disposal, Inc., 492 U.S. 257, 278, 109 S.Ct. 2909, 106 L.Ed.2d 219 (1989). Therefore, Michigan law controls the issue of the availability of punitive damages in this case. In ruling on damages as to a claim of battery, the Michigan Supreme Court held that " an award of exemplary damages is justifiable only where it is first shown that defendant's conduct was malicious, or so willful and wanton as to demonstrate a reckless disregard of the plaintiff's rights." Bailey v. Graves, 411 Mich. ...


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