United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
ORDER AND OPINION
Honorable Margaret B. Seymour Senior United States District
matter is before the court on various post-trial motions
filed by Plaintiffs Byron Sill and Daniel Yarborough
(collectively “Plaintiffs”), and Defendant AVSX
Technologies, LLC (“Defendant”). On July 31,
2017, Plaintiffs moved the court pursuant to Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure 59(e) and 54(d)(2) “to amend the
judgment entered . . . against Defendant . . . by trebling
the amount of the award entered for each of them and awarding
[Plaintiffs] their reasonable and necessary attorney's
fees.” ECF No. 65. Defendant responded in opposition on
August 8, 2017, ECF No. 67, and Plaintiffs replied on August
18, 2017. ECF No. 69. On August 15, 2017, Defendant moved the
court pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b) for
an order granting its renewed motion for judgment as a matter
of law. ECF No. 68. Plaintiffs responded in opposition on
August 29, 2017. ECF No. 70.
RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND
sued Defendant for wages owed under the South Carolina
Payment of Wages Act, SC Code Ann. §§ 41-10-50
et seq. Plaintiffs allege they were entitled to
unlawfully withheld “holdbacks” and
“overrides” due under their employment contracts.
ECF No. 1-1 at ¶¶ 17-23. The court held a trial on
July 17 and 18, 2017. During presentation of the
Plaintiffs' case, both Plaintiffs testified as to the
wages due. Plaintiffs asserted that the proper accounting for
chargebacks was the gross commission amount. Defendant
asserted that the proper accounting was the gross funding
amount. Plaintiff Yarborough testified he was owed
around $4, 200. Plaintiff Sill testified that he was owed $5,
700. Plaintiffs testified that they derived their
calculations from the documents Defendant provided in
discovery. On cross-examination, Plaintiffs stated that
Defendant improperly calculated their chargebacks and in some
instances double-counted chargebacks. At the close of
Plaintiffs' case, Defendant moved for judgment as a
matter of law, arguing that Plaintiffs failed to present
sufficient evidence to calculate damages with a reasonable
degree of certainty. ECF No. 54. The court denied
Defendant's presentation of its case-in-chief, Defendant
introduced two exhibits, Exhibit 5 and 6, which Defendant
purported to be the proper calculation of Plaintiffs'
holdbacks and chargebacks. Defendant argued that the exhibits
demonstrated that Plaintiffs' chargebacks exceeded their
holdbacks. At the close of Defendant's case, Defendant
renewed its motion for judgment as a matter of law based on
the insufficiency of evidence to calculate damages. ECF No.
54. The court denied Defendant's motion. The case was
submitted to the jury. Among the many instructions provided
to the jury, the court explained, “You may consider the
contracts Plaintiffs signed with Defendant. . . .
Plaintiffs' alleged unpaid wages are based on the
employment contracts executed between Plaintiffs and
Defendant.” ECF No. 57 at 4.
deliberations, the jury submitted a note to the court asking
(1) “[m]ay the jury have a few calculators, ” and
(2) “[i]s there a specific amount documented that the
Plaintiffs say they are owed.” After consulting with
the attorneys, the court submitted the following response
“(1) [a] calculator will be provided” and
“(2) [y]ou will have to rely on the evidence with
regard to whether a specific amount has been
documented.” The jury returned with a verdict shortly
thereafter, and issued the following verdict:
Byron Sill: $1, 379.54 Plaintiff Daniel Yarborough: $7,
147.33 ECF No. 59.
LEGAL STANDARDS AND ANALYSIS
Judgment as a Matter of Law
Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b) provides: “[i]f the court
does not grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law made
under Rule 50(a) [i.e., after a party has been fully heard on
an issue], 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). “In ruling on the renewed motion, the court may:
(1) allow judgment on the verdict, if the jury returned a
verdict; (2) order a new trial; or (3) direct the entry of
judgment as a matter of law.” Id.
jury has returned a verdict, the court may grant a Rule 50(b)
motion for judgment as a matter of law only if,
“viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the
non-moving party (and in support of the jury's verdict)
and drawing every legitimate inference in that party's
favor, the only conclusion a reasonable jury could have
reached is one in favor of the moving party.”
Pitrolo v. Cnty. of Buncombe, 407 Fed.Appx. 657, 659
(4th Cir. 2011) (quoting Int'l Ground Transp. v.
Mayor & City Council of Ocean City, 475 F.3d 214,
218-19 (4th Cir. 2007)). If reasonable minds could differ,
the court must affirm the jury's verdict. Id.
(citing Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Cntr.,
Inc., 290 F.3d 638, 645 (4th Cir. 2002)).
drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant,
the court may not weigh the evidence or assess the
credibility of the witnesses. Id. (citing
Dennis, 290 F.3d at 645). “A renewed motion
for judgment as a matter of law is not an occasion for the
[c]ourt to usurp the jury's authority to weigh the
evidence and gauge the credibility of witnesses.”
Thompson v. Direct Impact, Co., 63 F.Supp.2d 721,
723 (E.D. Va. 1998), aff'd 188 F.3d 503 (4th
Cir. 1999) (citing Taylor v. Home Ins. Co., 777 F.2d
849, 854 (4th Cir. 1985)). “[T]he defendant bears a
‘heavy burden' in establishing that the evidence is
insufficient to uphold the jury's verdict.”
Id. (citing Price v. City of Charlotte, 93
F.3d 1241, 1249 (4th Cir. 1996)); see also Liberty Mut.
Ins. Co. v. Employee Res. Mgmt., Inc., 176 F.Supp.2d
510, 514-15 (D.S.C. 2001).
argues that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law
because Plaintiffs “failed to present sufficient
evidence to allow a jury to calculate to a reasonable degree
of certainty the wages owed to Plaintiffs.” ECF No. 68.
It is Defendant's contention that the only explanation
for the jury's damage award is that the jury relied on
Defendant's evidence, which Defendant “only
presented in response to the Court's denial of judgment
as a matter of law at the end of Plaintiffs' case.”
Id. at 6. Lastly, Defendant argues that the
jury's note submitted to the court is “conclusive
proof” that Plaintiffs failed to present sufficient
evidence. Id. at 5.
recover damages, the evidence must enable the jury to
determine the amount of damages with reasonable certainty or
accuracy.” Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. JT Walker
Indus., Inc., 554 F. App'x 176, 188 (4th Cir. 2014)
(citing Magnolia N. Prop. Owners Assn., Inc. v. Heritage
Communities, Inc., 725 S.E.2d 112, 126 (S.C. Ct. App.
2012). “While neither the existence, causation nor
amount of damages can be left to conjecture, guess or
speculation, proof with mathematical certainty of the amount
of loss or damages is not required.” Whise ...