City Attorney issued a press release around 2:00 PM today (September ) concerning the jury findings in the civil suit of Zamora v. City of Houston. (Civil Action No. 4:07-4510, US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston division).
The case began in 2010 when HPD officer Christopher Zamora alleged that he had been subjected to racial discrimination and retaliatory treatment in a 10 day suspension. The City moved successfully for summary judgment. Originally, Mr. Zamora alleged that the retaliatory treatment concerned his father, HPD lieutenant Manual Zamora. The summary judgment was based on the interpretation that Title 7, the law preventing retaliatory treatment for unfair punishment of protected employee activities, must be based on actions of the employee. However, the Supreme Court found that the statute can also apply to close family members working for the same employer.
The case was remanded and eventually went to a jury, which found in favor of the plaintiff on retaliation. However, City Attorney Feldman believes the finding was contrary to the weight of evidence.
“There was insufficient evidence to support plaintiff’s claim of retaliation,” said Feldman, confirming that the City will file a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and that the City will appeal if the motion is denied. “Plaintiff testified in trial that none of the City’s decision makers had retaliated against him with regard to his suspension. The jury’s answer on the sole liability question decided against the City was against the weight of the evidence.”
A motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict is a routine procedure. It asks the judge to enter to disregard the verdict of the jury in case the jury's findings are unreasonable, excessive, or as Feldman states in this case, contrary to the weight of evidence. If the court refuses to enter a judgment disregarding the jury, the next step is to allege that the court erred in failing to grant the motion. The error then becomes the basis for appeal.