FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MAINE [Hon. Nancy Torresen, U.S. District Judge]
P. Dumais, with whom Glen L. Porter and Eaton Peabody were on
brief, for appellant.
T. Wietzke, with whom Flynn & Wietzke, P.C. was on brief,
Howard, Chief Judge, Torruella and Barron, Circuit Judges.
BARRON, Circuit Judge.
Springfield Terminal Railway Company
("Springfield"), appeals from a jury verdict
awarding punitive damages to the plaintiff, Jason Worcester,
under the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad
Safety Act (the "FRSA"). 49 U.S.C. § 20109.
Springfield argues that the District Court gave the jury an
incorrect instruction as to the standard for awarding
punitive damages. We affirm.
October 6, 2011, Springfield reported a leak of hydraulic
fluid to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. At
that time, the plaintiff, Worcester, was an employee of
Springfield. He became involved in a dispute with his
supervisor about the safety implications of cleaning up the
spill and was eventually fired. He then brought suit against
Springfield under the FRSA's whistleblower protection
provision, 49 U.S.C. § 20109. Following the trial, the
jury awarded the plaintiff $150, 000 in compensatory damages
and an additional $250, 000 in punitive damages. This appeal
begin with Worcester's challenge to our appellate
jurisdiction, which depends on Worcester's contention
that Springfield failed to timely file its notice of appeal.
Generally, a notice of appeal must be filed "within 30
days after entry of the judgment or order appealed
from." Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(1)(A). Here, the notice was
filed much later. Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure
4(a)(4)(A) provides, however, that "[i]f a party timely
files" a motion for a new trial, "the time to file
an appeal runs for all parties from the entry of the order
disposing of the last such remaining motion." And the
parties agree that Springfield timely filed a motion for a
new trial. The question, therefore, is whether that motion
tolled the clock for filing the notice of appeal.
contends that the clock was not tolled because there was no
"order disposing of" that new trial motion. But we
do not agree. The judgment in this case was entered on June
27, 2014. On July 24, 2014, Springfield filed a timely Rule
59 motion for a new trial. The plaintiff filed a response,
and, on August 18, 2014, the District Court held a telephone
conference with both parties regarding the motion for a new
trial. On that call, in light of the plaintiff's
response, Springfield withdrew its motion for a new trial, at
which point the following colloquy occurred:
THE COURT: All right. So I'm going to just take that as a
verbal motion to withdraw that motion, and we will just
declare it withdrawn, from our perspective, unless you wanted
to file something, Mr. Porter. MR. PORTER: No, that's
fine, Your Honor. THE COURT: All right. So then -- so
that's off the table, then, we don't have to worry
about that anymore. And is that the only pending motion in
the case, then? All right. MR. WIETZKE: Yes, Your Honor. MR.
PORTER: Yes, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Okay. So that's decided as of today, and
clocks are running.
Then, that same day, an electronic entry was entered on the
docket noting: "ORAL WITHDRAWAL of: . . . MOTION for New
Trial by SPRINGFIELD TERMINAL RAILWAY COMPANY."
District Court's verbal ruling on the motion to withdraw
left no pending motions remaining before the District Court,
and -- as the District Court stated -- began the clock
running on the time to appeal. Thus, there was an "order
disposing of" the motion, and so the clock for filing
the notice of appeal was tolled. See De León v.
Marcos, 659 F.3d 1276, 1281 (10th Cir. 2011)
("[T]he district court's order acknowledging the
withdrawal of De Leon's Rule 59 motion is sufficient for
purposes of Rule 4(a)(4)(A)."); United States v.
Rodríguez, 892 F.2d 233, 236 (2d Cir. 1989)
("[T]he filing of the motion for reconsideration stayed
the running of the time for appeal under [Federal Rule of
Appellate Procedure] 4(b), even though the motion was
withdrawn."); BraeTransp., Inc. v. Coopers
& Lybrand, 790 F.2d 1439, 1442 (9th Cir. 1986)
("[A]n order was issued disposing of the Rule 59 motion.
The district judge referred to the motion and declared that
it had been withdrawn."); see also Black's Law
Dictionary 1270 (10th ed. 2014) ...