Lynam $ 62,440 in damages for monetary losses and nothing for emotional distress. In regards to the contract claims, the jury found that Jackson & Coker's obligation to pay the Lynams' mortgage ended when Lynam left the employment of the Company, that the Lynams had not failed to act reasonably in attempting to sell their Georgia home, that Lynam's obligation to repay the promissory note was not due upon ending his employment with Jackson & Coker, and that the terms of the note did not include interest.
As a result of the verdict, Jackson & Coker was directed to pay Lynam $ 62,440 in damages, but the Lynams were not obligated to repay Jackson & Coker the $ 65,000 they had borrowed until they sold their Georgia home.
A. Lynam's arguments
Lynam raises various points in his motion for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial. For the following reasons, all of them are without merit, and his motion will be denied.
1. Jackson & Coker's obligation to continue to pay the Lynams' mortgage after Lynam's termination of his employment relationship with Jackson & Coker
As part of the compensation package offered to Lynam by Jackson & Coker when he was transferred to the Philadelphia office, Jackson & Coker promised to make the payments on the Lynams' Philadelphia mortgage until the Lynams were able to sell their home in Georgia. Lynam maintains that this duty survived his resignation from the Company in October of 1990, and that the only condition on the payments was that the Lynams engage in reasonable efforts to sell their Georgia property. This claim was contested by Jackson & Coker at trial. The Company pointed to a letter dated August 3, 1990, from Jackson & Coker to Lynam, stating that the payments would be made "as long as serious effort is made to dispose of [the Georgia] house and you remain with Jackson and Coker." Pl.'s ex. 31 at 2 (emphasis added). At the close of evidence, Lynam moved for judgment as a matter of law on this issue. The motion was denied, and the issue was submitted to the jury. The jury found that Jackson & Coker was not obligated to make the mortgage payments, and that the obligation to make mortgage payments had ended when Lynam resigned. Lynam now renews the motion. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b).
In examining a motion for judgment as a matter of law, the court "must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and determine whether 'the record contains the minimum quantum of evidence from which a jury might reasonably afford relief.'" Keith v. Truck Stops Corp. of Am., 909 F.2d 743, 745 (3d Cir. 1990) (citations omitted) (quoting Smollett v. Skayting Dev. Corp., 793 F.2d 547, 548 (3d Cir. 1986)). The evidence must be reviewed in the light most favorable to the prevailing party, and all inferences must be drawn in its favor. See In re Air Crash Disaster at Mannheim, Germany, 769 F.2d 115, 123 (3d Cir. 1985), cert. denied sub nom. Schoenborn v. Boeing Co., 474 U.S. 1082, 106 S. Ct. 851, 88 L. Ed. 2d 891(1986).
Applying these standards to the conflicting evidence, the Court finds that a reasonable jury could have found that the letter correctly stated the terms of the agreement, i.e., that the payments were conditioned on Lynam's continued employment, and that the Company's obligations ceased when Lynam resigned his position. Given the employment relationship between the two parties and the circumstances surrounding the formation of the agreement (Lynam was being transferred to another city), a reasonable jury could have inferred that the contract was made to encourage Lynam to accept the transfer and remain with the Company. The jury was entitled to reject Lynam's interpretation of the contract, i.e., one guaranteeing indefinite payments from Jackson & Coker notwithstanding the end of Lynam's employment with the Company.
In the alternative, Lynam requests a new trial on the issue of the mortgage payments, on the grounds that the jury's verdict was against the "overwhelming" weight of the evidence. A new trial on the grounds that a verdict is against the weight of the evidence will only be granted to prevent a miscarriage of justice. See Dunn v. HOVIC, 1 F.3d 1362, 1364 (3d Cir. 1993), modified on other grounds, 13 F.3d 58, 1993 U.S. Dist LEXIS 18355, 1993 WL 492289 (3d Cir. Nov. 26, 1993), cert. denied, 126 L. Ed. 2d 608, 114 S. Ct. 650, 62 U.S.L.W. 3409 (U.S. Dec. 13, 1993); Klein v. Hollings, 992 F.2d 1285, 1290 (3d Cir. 1993). Given the evidence in the record concerning the transfer of Lynam to the Philadelphia area and the letter of August 3, 1990, the Court finds that allowing the verdict to stand in the instant case would not be a miscarriage of justice.
2. The jury's verdict on the religious discrimination claim
The jury returned a verdict against Lynam on the issue of religious discrimination, finding that (1) he failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that his religion was a motivating factor in Jackson & Coker's decision to demote him and (2) he failed to establish that the proffered reasons were pretextual. Lynam now requests a new trial on these issues, claiming again that the evidence of discrimination was "overwhelming."
In support of this claim, Lynam relies almost totally on his testimony during direct examination. However, his own contention that he was discriminated against by the Company because he was not a member of the Church of Christ was effectively rebutted by the testimony of various current and former employees of Jackson & Coker who testified that Lynam received the fastest promotion in the Company's history, and that, in fact, he was promoted ahead of people who were members of the Church. Lynam's own testimony established that he received an interest-free loan to purchase a new home,
and that he was hired by the Company even though the Company knew he was not a member of the Church.
Moreover, there was ample testimony that the Company was entirely justified in demoting Lynam because his performance was not up to par with that of other regional vice presidents. Phil Hoggard, Jackson & Coker's executive vice-president for recruiting during Lynam's tenure at the Company, testified that the marketing department in the Northeast region ranked last in production among the Company's seven regions during the period Lynam headed the department as vice-president. Given this evidence, the Court finds that a reasonable jury could have concluded that Lynam was not discriminated against because of his religion, but rather, was demoted when he failed to perform satisfactorily in his new job.
See Klein, 992 F.2d at 1295 ("Where evidence is in conflict and subject to two interpretations, the trial judge should be reluctant to grant a new trial.").
3. The charge on mixed-motive analysis and pretext analysis
During the course of the trial, the Court on a number of occasions sought the input of counsel as to whether the jury should be charged under the mixed-motive, see Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228, 104 L. Ed. 2d 268, 109 S. Ct. 1775 (1989), or the pretext form of analysis, see Texas Dep't of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 67 L. Ed. 2d 207, 101 S. Ct. 1089 (1981); McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973), or both. See Tr. of 2/4/1993 at 93-100; Tr. of 2/5/1993 at 165-78; Tr. of 2/8/1993 at 10-13. After several colloquies with counsel, the Court concluded that the charge would include instructions on both methods of proving a Title VII claim. In doing so, the Court relied on the Eighth Circuit's Pattern Jury Instructions, which contemplate submitting to the jury the issue of discrimination on both methods in borderline cases, see Manual of Model Civil Jury Instructions for the Eighth Circuit 5.92, the decision by the Second Circuit in Ostrowski v. Atlantic Mutual Insurance Cos., 968 F.2d 171, 181 (2d Cir. 1992) (suggesting that the jury must examine both pretext and mixed-motive), and the Supreme Court's decision in Price Waterhouse itself, which counseled that the determination of which theory was appropriate was a matter to be left to the fact-finder, see Price Waterhouse, 490 U.S. at 247 n.12 ("If the plaintiff fails to satisfy the fact-finder that it is more likely than not that a forbidden characteristic played a part in the employment decision, then she may prevail only if she proves, following Burdine, that the employer's stated reason for its decision is pretextual."). See also Foster v. University of Arkansas, 938 F.2d 111, 113 (8th Cir. 1991) (affirming, without discussion, a lower court's charge to a jury on both mixed-motive and pretext).
The interrogatories propounded to the jury were designed to conform to the charge. The jury found both that Lynam had failed to prove that religion was a motivating factor in Jackson & Coker's decision to demote him, and had failed to prove that Jackson & Coker's articulated reason for the demotion was pretextual. See Tr. of 2/9/1993 at 17-18.
Lynam now claims that the instructions on pretext analysis under McDonnell Douglas should not have been given since there was direct evidence of religious discrimination in the record, and that giving the pretext instruction, in addition to the one on mixed-motive, was confusing to the jury. This argument will not lie given that Lynam failed to object to the jury instruction of which he now complains and, in fact, he specifically consented to it.
In the absence of plain error, which Lynam does not assert in this case, it is hornbook law that an objection not preserved during trial may not be raised in a post-trial motion. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 51; Dunn, 1 F.3d at 1378; Don Kemper Co. v. Beneficial Standard Life Ins. Co., 425 F.2d 221, 222 (3d Cir. 1970); 9 Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil § 2553 (1971). Because Lynam failed to object to the jury charge of which he know complains,
"stating distinctly the matter objected to and the grounds of objection," Fed. R. Civ. P. 51, his current exception will not lie.
4. Exclusion of testimony on the Church of Christ
Jackson & Coker moved in limine to preclude the testimony of Lynam's expert, Professor Gerry O'Sullivan. Professor O'Sullivan was proffered as an expert on the teachings and history of the Church of Christ. Prior to trial, the Court excluded the expert testimony, as well as any mention of the Church's evangelical policies, on the grounds that (1) the Church's policies were not on trial in the case, (2) the imputation of such policies to Jackson & Coker would be unfair, and (3) the introduction of evidence of that nature would result in confusion of the jury and delay of the trial as the parties sought to establish the nature of the Church's teachings. See Jackson & Coker, Inc. v. Lynam, 812 F. Supp. 55, 57 (E.D. Pa. 1993). The Court sees no reason why it should revisit the issue, especially since Lynam's current arguments simply restate, without more, those presented at the time the motion in limine was ruled on by the Court.
5. Instruction on emotional damages for the retaliation claim
During the charge, the Court instructed the jury that they could award Lynam damages for emotional distress if the "distress he suffered went beyond that ordinarily experienced when one is demoted or forced to defend a claim." Tr. of 2/8/1993 at 163. At the close of the charge, Lynam objected, and Jackson & Coker agreed, that this charge was incorrect in that it required the jury to offset any distress suffered by Lynam by that level of distress accompanying a normal demotion or lawsuit. The Court modified the charge by giving a further instruction:
You may recall that I instructed you that if you find that Mr. Lynam was unlawfully discriminated or retaliated against and that he suffered emotional distress, that you could award him damages for such emotional distress. In doing so, you need not subtract or reduce from that amount that amount of damages that may ordinarily be experienced by one who is demoted.
In other words, the damages which a person experiences or the emotional distress which a person experiences when he is demoted for a non-discriminatory reason should not be relevant to your analysis.