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Reyes v. Lafarga

United States District Court, D. Arizona

October 21, 2014

Jose R. Reyes, Plaintiff,
v.
Manny L. Garcia LaFarga, Defendant.

ORDER

STEPHEN M. McNAMMEE, Senior District Judge.

The Court held a jury trial in this case from January 21, 2014, to January 23, 2014. The jury returned a special verdict finding that Plaintiff worked 40-hour workweeks as Defendant's employee between March 24, 2007, and August 31, 2011, and was therefore eligible for lost wages pursuant to the Arizona Minimum Wage Act. (Doc. 115.) Accordingly, Plaintiff was granted $10, 159.43 in lost wages, which amount was subsequently doubled and added to the jury's award pursuant to A.R.S. ยง 23-346(G), for a total award of $30, 478.29. (Id.)

Before the Court is Defendant's fully-briefed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law and Motion for New Trial. (Docs. 124, 131, 133). Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a), Defendant also moves for a new trial on three grounds: (1) weight of evidence in Defendant's favor; (2) Plaintiff's lack of credibility; and (3) a compromised verdict. (Id.)

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), Plaintiff moves to amend the judgment, which is also fully briefed. (Docs. 125, 130, 132.)

After considering the parties' briefing, the Court will deny Defendant's motions and deny Plaintiff's motion.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Jose R. Reyes ("Reyes") filed this action against Defendants Manny L. Garcia LaFarga ("Garcia") and Prensa Hispana Incorporated ("PHI"), alleging that Garcia violated federal and state labor laws by failing to pay Reyes applicable minimum wage and overtime pay. (Docs. 5; 32 at 6.) Reyes' claims arose from his association with Garcia between February 2000 and September 2011. (Doc. 5 at 5.) Reyes alleged that during that time, Garcia provided employment and housing to Reyes at Garcia's businesses, Prensa Hispana ("PH") and Taller Mecanico La Raza ("TMLR").[1] (Doc. 35 at 2.)

Reyes alleged that Garcia hired him to be a night watchman to guard Garcia's businesses and business property. (Id. at 5.) To this end, Reyes claimed to have lived at Garcia's business property and performed the duties of a night watchman, working twelve hours a day from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. seven days a week, and receiving no time off. (Id. at 6.) In support of his claims, Reyes offered his own testimony at trial and produced 92 checks signed by Garcia dating from March 24, 2007 to the date of his termination, August 31, 2011. (Doc. 120 at 78.) Six checks had either "contract" or "velador" (Spanish for "watchman") written in the memo line. (Id. at 78:14; 79:23; 80:7, 19; 81:6, 17.)

Garcia's account of the facts varied drastically from Reyes' account. According to Garcia, he never employed Reyes, but rather allowed him to live on his property for free, and gave occasional charitable gifts of money, food, and clothing as a favor to Reyes, who was destitute and homeless before Garcia helped him. (Doc. 39 at 3.) Garcia asserted that he asked Reyes for nothing in return except that he alert Garcia if he ever saw anyone trying to vandalize or steal Garcia's company vehicles. (Id.) Garcia insisted that he never told Reyes he was an employee, and that Reyes never claimed to be an employee or complained about the money, food, or rent-free living quarters he received. (Id.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law

"Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate when the evidence, construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, permits only one reasonable conclusion, which is contrary to the jury's verdict." Omega Envtl., Inc. v. Gilbarco, Inc. , 127 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th Cir. 1997); see also White v. Ford Motor Co. , 312 F.3d 998, 1010 (9th Cir. 2002). Thus, judgment as a matter of law may be granted "[i]f 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..." Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1); Juhnke v. EIG Corp. , 444 F.2d 1323, 1325 (9th Cir. 1971) (noting that directed verdict and motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict "are measured by the same standards as the latter is merely a renewal of the former").

In considering a Rule 50(b) motion, "the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc. , 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). However, because the Court reviews the record as a whole, the Court "should give credence to the evidence favoring the nonmovant as well as that evidence supporting the moving party that is uncontradicted and unimpeached, at least to the extent that that evidence comes from disinterested witnesses." Id. at 151 (citation and internal quotations omitted). Therefore, the Court's role is not to substitute its view of the evidence for that of the jury. Winarto v. Toshiba Am. Elecs. Components , 274 F.3d 1276, 1283 (9th Cir. 2001). The "test applied is whether the evidence permits only one reasonable conclusion, and that conclusion is contrary to the jury's verdict." E.E.O.C. v. Go Daddy Software, Inc. , 581 ...


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