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Kruczek v. Borough of Lansford

May 21, 2006

MARY KRUCZEK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOROUGH OF LANSFORD, ROBERT GAUGHAN, RICHARD GIANTESANO, CHARLES REPINEC, AND MARGARET HOROWSKI, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendants' Post-Verdict Motions in Arrest of Judgment, Review of Request of Judgment as a Matter of Law, For a New Trial, to Alter and Amend the Judgment and for a Stay of Judgment (Doc. 41).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff brought this action on June 1, 2004, alleging that: (1) she was terminated based on her political affiliation/association in violation of her First Amendment rights; and (2) defamatory statements about Plaitniff were made by Defendant Giantesano on the "Air Your Opinion" radio program on January 10, 2004. (Doc. 1.)

On October 12, 2005, following a two (2) day trial, the jury found that: (1) Defendants had terminated Plaintiff from the position of Borough Secretary / Treasurer at the Borough Council meeting on January 5, 2004; (2) Plaintiff's political affiliation was a substantial or motivating factor in Defendants Gaughan, Giantesano, Repinec, and the Borough of Lansford's decisions to terminate Plaintiff; (3) Defendants did not establish that they would have made the same decision to terminate Plaintiff in the absence of her political affiliation; (4) Plaintiff was entitled to compensatory damages for the violation of her First Amendment rights in the amount of $20,000 from Defendant Gaughan, $20,000 from Defendant Giantesano, $20,000 from Defendant Repinec, and $20,000 from Defendant Borough of Lansford; (5) Plaintiff was entitled to punitive damages in the amount of $10,000 from Defendant Gaughan, $10,000 from Defendant Giantesano, and $10,000 from Defendant Repinec; (6) Defendant Giantesano made defamatory statements about Plaintiff on the "Air Your Opinion" radio program on January 10, 2004; (7) Plaintiff was entitled to compensatory damages for the defamatory remarks in the amount of $25,000 from Defendant Giantesano; and (8) Plaintiff was entitled to punitive damages for the defamatory remarks in the amount of $60,000 from Defendant Giantesano. (Special Verdict Slip, Doc. 38.)

Defendants now move for judgment after trial, a new trial, to alter and amend the judgment and for a stay of judgment. (Doc. 41.) Defendants' motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

DISCUSSION

1. Judgment After Trial

Defendants first move for judgment after trial pursuant to Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 50 provides, in relevant part, that:

If, for any reason, the court does not grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law made at the close of all the evidence, the court is considered to have submitted the action to the jury. . . . The movant may renew its request for judgment as a matter of law by filing a motion no later than 10 days after entry of judgment. . . .

FED. R. CIV. P. 50(b) (emphasis added).

In the present case, Defendants made a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's case pursuant to Rule 50 at the close of Plaintiff's evidence. Defendants, however, did not make a motion pursuant to Rule 50 at the close of all evidence. Accordingly, Defendants have waived their claim for a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law. See, e.g., Greenleaf v. Garlock, Inc., 174 F.3d 352, 364 (3d Cir. 1999).

Furthermore, "[a] jury verdict should be disturbed only where the record 'is critically deficient of that quantum of evidence from which a jury could have rationally reached its verdict.'" Bjorklund v. Phila. Hous. Auth., 118 Fed. Appx. 624, 625 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Feldman v. Phila. Hous. Auth., 43 F.3d 823, 828 (3d Cir. 1994)). In addition, the evidence should be viewed in the light most favorable to the party against whom the motion is made, in this case, Plaintiff. See, e.g., Kinnel v. Mid-Atlantic Mausoleums, 850 F.2d 958, 961 (3d Cir. 1988). Even if Defendants had not waived their claims under Rule 50, I cannot find, ...


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