JOSE A. MEJIAS-AGUAYO; RAMON LUIS MEJIAS-NIEVES; JOSE ANTONIO MEJIAS-NIEVES, Plaintiffs, Appellants,
JUAN DORESTE-RODRIGUEZ; UNIVERSAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants, Appellees.
FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. Marcos E. López, Magistrate
José Luis Ubarri, Esq., David W. Román, Esq.,
and Ubarri & Román Law Office on brief for
José Hector Vivas, Pedro Jamie Lopez-Bergollo,
José M. Martinez Chevres, Vivas & Vivas, and
Andreu & Sagardia on brief for appellees.
Howard, Chief Judge. Lipez and Barron, Circuit Judges.
HOWARD, Chief Judge.
an unfortunate car accident, injured pedestrian José
Mejías-Aguayo filed a negligence action against the
vehicle's driver Juan Doreste-Rodríguez and
Doreste's insurance company Universal Insurance Company
("Universal"). After a four-day jury trial, the
jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants.
Mejías then filed a motion for a new trial, which the
district court denied. Mejías now appeals this denial,
maintaining that the verdict was against the weight of the
evidence and that certain statements by defense counsel and
erroneous jury instructions warrant a new trial. Finding
insufficient merit to his challenges, we affirm.
January 2013, Mejías was on his way to a Banco Popular
branch in Isabela, Puerto Rico. As he crossed Agustín
Ramos Calero Avenue, a two-way street -- though not, he
concedes, at a designated crosswalk -- Doreste's car
struck him, and he suffered significant injuries.
Mejías subsequently filed a state-law negligence
action in federal district court, invoking diversity
trial, Mejías testified that he was hit "just as
he lifted his foot to step onto the sidewalk" leading to
the bank. Miguel Arroyo, Mejías's witness at
trial, testified that at the time of the accident he was
parked at a nearby stop sign, and saw Mejías's
body fly about two feet into the air and land four to five
feet from the front bumper of Doreste's car. Photographs
taken by the insurance company showed damage to the front
by contrast, maintained that the accident occurred not near
the sidewalk, but closer to the center of the road. Doreste
testified that, as he was driving, Mejías --initially
shielded from view by a large SUV driving in the opposite
direction -- suddenly appeared in front of his vehicle.
Doreste immediately applied the brakes, but nevertheless
struck Mejías. Doreste testified that he was not on
the phone, had not been drinking, and obeyed all traffic
laws. He also asserted that the damage to the passenger-side
front bumper of his car, indicated in the insurance company
photo, was the result of an earlier accident, and that it was
actually the middle of his front bumper that struck
Mejías, closer to the driver's side.
jury returned a verdict in favor of Doreste, finding that
Mejías failed to prove by a preponderance of the
evidence that Doreste was negligent in his driving and that
his negligence proximately caused damage to Mejías.
The court entered judgment consistent with the verdict.
Mejías filed a motion for a new trial, which the
district court denied. This timely appeal of that denial
court may, on motion, grant a new trial in limited
circumstances. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1). "A
new trial may be warranted if 'the verdict is against the
weight of the evidence' or if 'the action is required
in order to prevent injustice.'" Jones ex rel.
U.S. v. Mass. Gen. Hosp., 780 F.3d 479, 492 (1st Cir.
2015) (quoting Jennings v. Jones, 587 F.3d 430, 436
(1st Cir. 2009)). We review a district court's denial of
a motion for a new trial for abuse of discretion.
appeal, Mejías repeats the arguments set forth in his
motion for a new trial before the district court, arguing
that: 1) the verdict was against the weight of the evidence;
2) defense counsel made improper comments at closing argument
that were not remedied by the court's curative