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Piesco v. Koch

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Piesco sued claiming that the defendants violated 42 USc § 1983 by terminating her from the Department of Personnel for the City of New York. Piesco claimed that she was retaliated against for exercising her first amendment rights when she made statements against a police department examination.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A district court can grant a motion for a new trial if the jury’s verdict goes against the evidence and the verdict is clearly erroneous.

    Facts.

    Piesco, a hiring test administrator for the Department of Personnel (DOP) for the City of New York, received excellent evaluations from her managers. When Piesco did not pass the police officer examination, Piesco believed that her score should be raised. Piesco told the state senate committee evaluating the police department that any moron could pass that examination. Ortiz and Laporte subsequently rated Piesco’s performance marginal, claiming that the statements were unrelated to Piesco’s statement to the committee. Piesco sued claiming that the defendants violated 42 USc § 1983, claiming that she was retaliated against for exercising her first amendment rights. The district court initially granted summary judgment to the defendants, but the judgment was reversed by the jury. The defendants moved for a judgment as a matter of law or a new trial, and the district judge denied the motion.

    Issue.

    Whether a district court can grant a motion for a new trial if the jury’s verdict goes against the evidence and the verdict is clearly erroneous?

    Held.

    Yes. The denial of a new trial is vacated and the matter is remanded. A verdict must not be egregious in order for a new trial to be granted. A new trial should be granted if the trial applied the wrong legal standard and the verdict is clearly erroneous.

    Discussion.

    FRCP 59(a) allows a district court to grant a motion for a new trial if the jury’s verdict goes against the evidence and the verdict is clearly erroneous.


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