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VALENTIN v. CROZER-CHESTER MED. CTR.

November 3, 1997

MARIBEL VALENTIN
v.
CROZER-CHESTER MEDICAL CENTER



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHAPIRO

 Norma L. Shapiro, J.

 November 3, 1997

 Plaintiff Maribel Valentin ("Valentin") filed this action against defendant Crozer-Chester Medical Center ("Crozer"); she alleged unlawful national origin discrimination and retaliation because she filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, et seq. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Valentin and against Crozer on both the discrimination and retaliation claims. Crozer filed a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial. For the reasons stated below, Crozer's motions will be granted in part and denied in part.

 FACTS

 Crozer is a medical facility located in Upland, Pennsylvania. Valentin began working at Crozer as a supervisor in September, 1990. Faye DeMuth ("DeMuth") was hired by Crozer in November, 1990, and served as Valentin's supervisor for all periods of time relevant to this litigation.

 Valentin was promoted to the position of evening/night coordinator in January, 1992. In this position Valentin was responsible for supervising approximately thirty employees. On August 19, 1993, Crozer eliminated the position of evening/night coordinator. Valentin inquired of Nancy Bristol ("Bristol"), laboratory administrative manager, as to any evening shift openings; Bristol told her there were none. Valentin became a weekend supervisor.

 Valentin believed the decision to eliminate her position as evening/night coordinator was based on her Puerto Rican background. On September 22, 1993, she filed an EEOC complaint alleging discrimination based on national origin.

 On October 25, 1993, DeMuth and Collette Brown ("Brown"), the senior human resources manager, promoted Joanne Ullman ("Ullman") from general technologist to senior technologist in the laboratory blood bank. Valentin had not interviewed for the senior technologist position. *fn1" DeMuth told Valentin to report to Ullman when she worked the second shift one day per week; Valentin objected on the ground that Ullman was a recent graduate who lacked sufficient experience.

 Valentin also alleged she was subjected to increased scrutiny in the laboratory after filing her original EEOC complaint. Valentin incorrectly reported the results of a test she performed on synovial fluid in October, 1993. The physician who ordered the test believed Valentin's results were incorrect; William Blakeslee ("Blakeslee") and Loreen Jennings ("Jennings") did a recount on the synovial fluid, and determined that Valentin's analysis was incorrect. Valentin received a written disciplinary report for the incorrect laboratory analysis.

 In December, 1993, DeMuth evaluated Valentin for the period from September, 1992, to December, 1993. DeMuth rated Valentin "satisfactory." Valentin objected to this evaluation and prosecuted a grievance. Valentin discussed her evaluation with: Melvin Einhorn ("Einhorn"), vice president of human resources; Joseph Saunders ("Saunders"), vice president for support services; DeMuth; and Bristol. Einhorn instructed the laboratory managers to remove a paragraph from Valentin's evaluation, but no one did so.

 On January 10, 1995, Valentin and various Crozer officials participated in a fact-finding conference with the EEOC; the EEOC took no dispositive action regarding Valentin's two outstanding charges. Crozer terminated Valentin in February, 1995. Crozer relied on three justifications for firing Valentin: 1) Valentin divulged confidential information regarding the termination of Pat Smith ("Smith"), contrary to hospital policy; 2) Valentin behaved in a rude manner toward a member of the Crozer medical staff; and 3) Valentin suggested to subordinate employees they should not report laboratory errors.

 At the time of Valentin's termination, she was earning $ 28 per hour at Crozer. Valentin was hired by the hematology department at Brookside Lab four months later on June 14, 1995. After receiving several raises, Valentin was earning $ 19 per hour at Brookside Lab at the time of trial.

 At the close of Valentin's case, Crozer moved for judgment as a matter of law; the court took Crozer's motion under advisement. Crozer again moved for judgment as a matter of law at the close of all the evidence; the court denied the motion.

 The jury returned a verdict in favor of Crozer and against Valentin on her claim that Crozer had eliminated Valentin's position of evening/night coordinator because of her national origin; the jury returned a verdict in favor of Valentin and against Crozer on the claim that Crozer terminated Valentin because of her national origin. On Valentin's retaliation claims, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Valentin and against Crozer on the claim that Crozer retaliated against Valentin between September, 1993 and February, 1995, because of her EEOC complaints; the jury returned a verdict in favor of Valentin and against Crozer on the claim that Crozer terminated Valentin in February, 1995 because of her EEOC complaints.

 The jury awarded Valentin damages of $ 209,000 for pain and suffering, $ 45,400 for past lost wages and $ 20,600 for future lost wages. The court reduced the $ 20,600 award to present value of $ 19,757.92, and entered judgment against Crozer in the amount of $ 274,157.92. Crozer filed a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial.

 DISCUSSION

 I. Standard of Review for Post-Trial Motions

 A. Judgment as a Matter of Law

 Upon renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permit the court to: "(A) allow the judgment to stand, (B) order a new trial, or (C) direct entry of judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b)(1). *fn2"

 The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and "'every fair and reasonable inference'" must be drawn in that party's favor. McDaniels v. Flick, 59 F.3d 446, 453 (3d Cir. 1995) (quoting Lightning Lube, Inc. v. Witco Corp., 4 F.3d 1153, 1166 (3d Cir. 1993)), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 1146, 134 L. Ed. 2d 97, 116 S. Ct. 1017 (1996); see Keith v. Truck Stops Corp., 909 F.2d 743, 745 (3d Cir. 1990). "A jury verdict can be displaced by judgment as a matter of law only if 'the record is critically deficient of the minimum quantum of evidence from which the jury might reasonably afford relief.'" Stelwagon Manu. Co. v. Tarmac Roofing Sys., Inc., 862 F. Supp. 1361, 1364 (E.D. Pa. 1994) (quoting Dawson v. Chrysler Corp., 630 F.2d 950, 959 (3d Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 959, 67 L. Ed. 2d 383, 101 S. Ct. 1418 (1981)), modified, 63 F.3d 1267 (3d Cir. 1995), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 1172, 134 L. Ed. 2d 212, 116 S. Ct. 1264 (1996); see Parkway Garage Inc. v. City of Phila., 5 F.3d 685, 691 (3d Cir. 1993) (citations omitted).

 Crozer moves for judgment as a matter of law on the ground that Valentin failed to carry her burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that Crozer terminated her based on her national origin or retaliated against her because of her EEOC activity.

 B. Motion for a New Trial

 A court can grant a new trial "for any of the reasons for which new trials have heretofore been granted in actions at law in the courts of the United States." Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(a)(1). A new trial may be granted where "the verdict is contrary to the great weight of the evidence." Roebuck v. Drexel Univ., 852 F.2d 715, 735 (3d Cir. 1988). A new trial also is appropriate if the trial court erred on a matter of law. See Klein v. Hollings, 992 F.2d 1285, 1289-90 (3d Cir. 1993).

 The decision to grant or deny a motion for a new trial "is confided almost entirely to the discretion of the district court." Blancha v. Raymark Indus., 972 F.2d 507, 512 (3d Cir. 1992); see Allied Chem. Corp. v. Daiflon, Inc., 449 U.S. 33, 36, 66 L. Ed. 2d 193, 101 S. Ct. 188 (1980). However, the court's discretion is more limited when granting a new trial because the jury's verdict is against the weight of the evidence. See Hourston v. Harvlan, Inc., 457 F.2d 1105, 1107 (3d Cir. 1972); Lind v. Schenley Indus., Inc., 278 F.2d 79, 90 (3d Cir. 1972), cert. denied, 364 U.S. 835, 5 L. Ed. 2d 60, 81 S. Ct. 58 (1960). A new trial "cannot be granted ... merely because the court would have weighed the evidence differently and reached a different conclusion." Markovich v. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc., 805 F. Supp. 1231, 1235 (E.D. Pa.) aff'd, 977 F.2d 568 (3d Cir. 1992).

 A court analyzing a motion for a new trial need not view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict winner. See Magee v. General Motors Corp., 213 F.2d 899, 900 (3d Cir. 1954). If the court finds the verdict is against the great weight of the evidence, or the amount of the verdict is excessive and "shocks the conscience" of the court, the court may grant a new trial. See Williamson v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 926 F.2d 1344, ...


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