United States District Court, D. Arizona
DOUGLAS L. RAYES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant Foster Poultry Farms
Incorporated's (“Foster Farms”) Motion for
Judgment as Matter of Law Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 50(a) (Doc. 315), which is fully briefed (Docs.
363, 366). For the following reasons, the motion is denied.
2013, then 17 month-old Plaintiff N.C. contracted
salmonellosis and subsequently experienced severe
complications. N.C. 's parents, Plaintiffs James and
Amanda Craten, brought this action in December 2015, alleging
that N.C. 's illness was caused by raw chicken processed
by Foster Farms. The Cratens' amended complaint asserted
negligence, strict liability, and breach of the implied
warranty of merchantability claims. (Doc. 223.)
March 31, 2017, Foster Farms moved for summary judgment on
all claims. (Doc. 137.) Foster Farms argued that the
Cratens' claims failed as a matter of law because: (1)
the Cratens could not prove causation, which is necessary
element of all their claims; and (2) the Cratens' claims
are preempted by the Poultry Products Inspect Act
(“PPIA”). Alternatively, Foster Farms argued that
partial summary judgment should be entered on the
Cratens' breach of implied warranty and strict liability
claims because Foster Farms' chicken was safe for its
intended use and the warning labels Foster Farms utilized are
approved by the United States Department of Agriculture Food
Safety and Inspection Service (“USDA-FSIS”).
January 19, 2018, the Court granted in part and denied in
part Foster Farms' motion for summary judgment. (Doc.
245.) On the question of causation, the Court concluded that,
viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
Cratens, there was sufficient circumstantial and expert
witness evidence to permit a jury to infer that N.C.
contracted his illness from Foster Farms chicken. On the
question of preemption, the Court concluded that the PPIA
preempted the Cratens' claims predicated on allegedly
inadequate warnings and labels, but that the Cratens'
negligence claim was not preempted to the extent it was
predicated on duties that parallel federal law. Finally, the
Court agreed with Foster Farms that, under Arizona law, the
Cratens could not sustain strict liability or breach of
implied warranty claims because Salmonella bacteria are
killed through proper cooking and, therefore, Foster Farms
chicken is safe when used as intended.
parties thereafter proceeded to an eleven-day jury trial on
the Cratens' negligence claim. On February 23, 2018, the
eighth day of trial, Foster Farms notified the Court that it
intended to file a written motion for judgment as a matter of
law pursuant to Rule 50(a). The Court informed the parties
that it intended to give the Cratens adequate time to respond
to the motion. Foster Farms filed its Rule 50(a) motion the
following day. (Doc. 315.)
meantime, the parties continued with trial. On March 1, 2018,
the jury entered a verdict finding Foster Farms to be 30% at
fault for N.C. 's injuries, and assigning the remaining
70% of fault to the Cratens themselves. (Doc. 345.)
later, the Cratens filed their response to Foster Farms'
Rule 50(a) motion. (Doc. 363.) Foster Farms thereafter filed
its written reply (Doc. 366), and the Court took the matter
50(a) permits the court to grant judgment as a matter of law
if a party has been fully heard on an issue and the court
finds that “a reasonable jury would not have a legally
sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that
issue[.]” Where, as here, “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.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
50(b). The Rule 50 standard is the same as the standard for
granting a motion for summary judgment. See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-52 (1986). Thus,
when considering a Rule 50 motion, the court must view the
evidence in the light most favorably to the nonmoving party,
“draw all reasonable inferences in that party's
favor, and it may not make creditability determinations or
weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing
Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). “The test
applied is whether the evidence permits only one reasonable
conclusion, and that conclusion is contrary to the jury's
verdict.” Josephs v. Pac. Bell, 443 F.3d 1050,
1062 (9th Cir. 2006).
Rule 50 motion, Foster Farms reasserts its position that the
Cratens have insufficient evidence that N.C. 's illness
was caused by exposure to Foster Farms' products, and
that the Cratens' negligence claim is preempted by the
PPIA. (Doc. 363.) The Court rejected these arguments when
first raised in the context of Foster Farms' motion for
summary judgment. Having carefully considered the briefing on
Foster Farms' Rule 50 motion, the Court finds no reason
to conclude differently now.