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Reyes v. Snowcap Creamery, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 20, 2014

JONATHAN REYES, Plaintiff,
v.
SNOWCAP CREAMERY, INC., EMILY ARNOLD, and ROBERT ARNOLD, Defendants.

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL, ECF. DOC. 104 AND DISCUSSING OTHER POST-TRIAL ISSUES

JOHN L. KANE, District Judge.

Defendants Snowcap Creamery, Inc., Emily Arnold, and Bob Arnold (collectively "Snowcap") move for a new trial to amend my oral Order and Ruling announced in open court at the conclusion of trial on December 20, 2013 insofar as it held that Plaintiff Jonathon Reyes is entitled to recover overtime for work performed as an hourly employee before his promotion to Kitchen Manager. I decline the invitation. The Order stands. That said, neither Mr. Reyes nor Snowcap has submitted an acceptable draft of Proposed Judgment. The following discusses both my decision to deny a new trial and also the issues presented by the Proposed Judgments.

A. There are no grounds for a new trial.

I. The ruling at issue.

At the end of a three day bench trial, I found that Mr. Reyes is entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (the "FLSA") for work in excess of 40 hours per week performed as an hourly employee for Snowcap. Plaintiff's Exhibit 12, his summary of damages, asserted that he worked as an hourly employee from August 25, 2009 through January 23, 2010 and that he is owed overtime of $1475.19 for that period. I found that Mr. Reyes is entitled to a limited judgment in this amount. Courtroom Minutes, December 20, 2013.[1] The instant motion protests that finding and claims that Mr. Reyes was exempt from the FLSA as a salaried employee beginning in November 2009.

II. Legal standard for a Rule 59 motion.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1)(B) and (2) provide:

(1) Grounds for New Trial. The court may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the issues-and to any party-as follows:
(B) after a nonjury trial, for any reason for which a rehearing has heretofore been granted in a suit in equity in federal court.
(2) Further Action After a Nonjury Trial. After a nonjury trial, the court may, on motion for a new trial, open the judgment if one has been entered, take additional testimony, amend findings of fact and conclusions of law or make new ones, and direct the entry of a new judgment.

I have broad discretion in determining whether a new trial is warranted under Rule 59. McHargue v. Stokes Division of Pennwalt Corp., 912 F.2d 394, 396 (10th Cir.1990). Particularly as the nonjury trial Rule 59 motion asks the same judge issuing the verdict to overturn it, it is subject to a high standard. "A motion for a new trial in a nonjury case or a petition for rehearing should be based upon manifest error of law or mistake of fact, and a judgment should not be set aside except for substantial reasons." Charles Alan Wright et al., 11 Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. ยง 2804 (3d ed. & 2013 update) (discussing Rule 59 in nonjury cases); see Ball v. Interoceanica Co., 71 F.3d 73, 76 (2d Cir. 1995) (denying Rule 59 motion, quoting above Federal Practice & Procedure language).

III. Analysis

Snowcap's motion offers nothing approaching "manifest error of law or mistake of fact, " nor "substantial reasons." A post-trial motion, it cites almost nothing that happened at trial. It conspicuously neglects to cite the barely two-day trial transcript[2], and fails to note the evidence supporting the verdict they challenge. For example, on the major issue of whether Snowcap can prove Mr. Reyes was salaried and therefore overtime exempt before January 24, 2010 ( i.e., during the first five months for which I awarded unpaid overtime), Snowcap admits it does "not recall whether Plaintiff testified at trial that he did not receive a salary before the actual opening of Parkway Sports Grill on January 24, 2010." Def. Mot. at 10.

In fact, Mr. Reyes testimony was consistent with a salary beginning after the opening of Parkway Sports Grill ("Parkway"). Mr. Reyes testified at trial that he did not assume the role of "manager" until after Parkway opened and that he spent the weeks leading up to Parkway's opening doing unusually heavy overtime manual labor (painting, wood-working, etc.). Emily Arnold's deposition testimony similarly states that Mr. Reyes did not become a salaried employee until February 2010. Dep. E. Arnold 32:14. Moreover, Snowcap offered ...


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