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October 7, 2005.

MARGARET SOBEK BARBISH and ALFRED BARBISH, husband and wife, Plaintiffs,

The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM STANDISH, Senior District Judge


Pending before the Court is a motion for a new trial by Plaintiff Margaret Barbish*fn1 (Docket No. 66). For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's Motion is denied.


  The facts giving rise to this case are well-known to the parties and will not be reiterated in detail here. Briefly stated, Margaret Barbish was employed as Director of Human Resources for the Green Tree Marriott Hotel ("Marriott") at the time the hotel was purchased by Defendant American Property Management Corporation ("APMC") in August 1999. As part of the purchase agreement between APMC and Marriott's parent company, Interstate Hotels Corporation ("Interstate"), the salaries of hotel staff who were expected to continue with APMC (including Ms. Barbish) were not to be increased between signing of the purchase agreement and closing of the sale. Nevertheless, the Marriott hotel manager increased Ms. Barbish's annual salary from $72,582 to $76,211 the day before the transition took place.

  Soon after the change in ownership, Marriott's new general manager, Roland Sardaczuk, discovered the salary increase and reduced Ms. Barbish's salary to the amount she received prior to the sale. In September 1999, Ms. Barbish informed the hotel payroll department that her salary check did not include the car allowance she previously received from Interstate. Although she did not submit any paperwork to support this claim, the payroll office confirmed that she had indeed been receiving an annual allowance of $7,440 and increased her paycheck accordingly.

  Several months later, when Mr. Sardaczuk noticed that the human resources department was over budget, he discovered the increase in Ms. Barbish's salary as a result of the car allowance. He met with her and told her that she would have to forego the allowance; she protested that she was entitled to it because it had been in place prior to the sale. The dispute was referred to APMC managers at corporate headquarters who demanded that she return to her original salary of $72,582, give up the car allowance, and repay $5,108, the amount she had been overpaid after APMC acquired the hotel. When Ms. Barbish objected, APMC management said they had "lost confidence in her" and asked for her resignation. After a few days to consider, Plaintiff advised APMC that she would not resign. Her employment was terminated that day on the grounds that she had given herself an unauthorized pay increase in the form of the car allowance.

  Ms. Barbish filed suit, claiming that Defendants had violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29, U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (ADEA), the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951 et seq. ("PHRA"), and the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, 43 P.S. § 260.1 et seq. ("WPCL.") She also brought common law claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. The latter claim was based on her allegation that shortly after she was fired in April 2000, Mr. Sardaczuk had told hotel staff she was let go because she was a thief as shown by the fact she had given herself an unauthorized pay increase.

  Defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims. Plaintiff failed to respond to their motion with respect to the WPCL and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, and therefore the Court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendants on those two counts without discussion. (Docket No. 34.) Summary judgment was denied with regard to Plaintiff's ADEA, PHRA, and defamation claims and her husband's loss of consortium claim. (Id.)

  On January 26, 2005, following a five-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff with regard to her defamation claim only. As stated on the Special Verdict Form, the jury affirmatively found

by a preponderance of the evidence that [Defendants'] employees . . . published defamatory statements to third persons about plaintiff, . . . which statements resulted in "actual harm" to plaintiff.
(Special Verdict Form, Docket No. 63, question 6.)

  The jury awarded Ms. Barbish $14,000 as "damages directly resulting from publication of defamatory statements about her." (Special Verdict Form, question 7.) However, it did not find Defendants' employees acted with "actual malice" in making those derogatory statements and so did not award any punitive damages. (Special Verdict Form, Docket No. 64, questions 1 and 2.)

  On February 10, 2005, Plaintiff filed a Motion for a New Trial. In her motion, Ms. Barbish raises three arguments: (1) the damages awarded by the jury at trial are insufficient and/or against the clear weight of the evidence; (2) the inadequate award was the result of jury confusion or compromise; and (3) the inadequate award resulted from improper argument of Defendants' counsel at closing. She does not argue with the jury's decision regarding punitive damages. We have considered each of Plaintiff's arguments in turn and find none of them persuasive.


  In pertinent part, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a) provides:
A new trial may be granted to all or any of the parties and on all or part of the issues in an action in which there has been a trial by jury, for any of the reasons for which new trials have heretofore been granted ...

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