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Kathleen T. Murphy v. City of Philadelphia Department of Recreation

August 17, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joyner, C.J.


This employment discrimination case has been brought before the Court on post-trial motions of the Defendant, City of Philadelphia Department of Recreation for judgment as a matter of law and to alter or amend the judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50 and 59. For the reasons which follow, the motions shall be denied.

History of the Case

Plaintiff Kathleen Murphy began working for the City of Philadelphia's Department of Recreation as a seasonal employee in 1969. In March, 1978, she was hired by the Department as a permanent full-time Recreation Leader. In 1999, she was promoted to the position of Recreation Program Director, charged with directing the operations of several sections of the Program Division and supervising some 3 to 5 District Managers and 4 to 6 Program Coordinators. In her capacity as Program Director, Ms. Murphy reported directly to William Carapuccio, who was the Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Recreation.

In May 2006, Ms. Murphy filed the first of three Charges of Discrimination with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging that beginning in 2000 and continuing to the present, Mr. Carapuccio had discriminated against her on the basis of her gender by, inter alia, giving her more difficult assignments than her male counterparts, overly scrutinizing her work, refusing to discuss assignments with her and requiring a written schedule only from her, and by using profanity and screaming at her. In addition, Plaintiff alleged that Mr. Carapuccio repeatedly made derogatory remarks about women and that when she complained about his behavior to the Deputy Managing Director and to the internal EEO office, Mr. Carapuccio retaliated against her by removing some of her greater responsibilities and by giving her a written warning which hindered any possibility of promotion. Plaintiff's subsequent EEO/PHRC charges alleged further instances of retaliation and disparate treatment by the Defendant Department acting through Mr. Carapuccio and Victor Richard, another Commissioner, which eventually purportedly caused Plaintiff to resign her position. Following the receipt of a "Right to Sue" letter on August 2, 2007, Plaintiff commenced this lawsuit on October 1, 2007 pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e, et. seq. seeking compensatory damages for lost wages, benefits, promotions, pain and suffering/emotional distress and punitive damages.

Trial in this matter commenced on November 15, 2010 and, following six days of testimony and argument, concluded with a verdict on November 22, 2010 in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant in the amount of $100,000 in compensatory damages for the Defendant's retaliation only. Defendant thereafter filed the Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law and/or to Alter or Amend the Judgment that is now before us.

Standards Governing Motions Under Rules 50(b) and 59 Defendant invokes Fed. R. Civ. P. Nos. 50(b) and 59 as authority for the entry of judgment in its favor as a matter of law or to alter/amend the judgment against it. Specifically, Rule 50(b) states the following:

(b) Renewing the Motion After Trial; Alternative Motion for New Trial. If the court does not grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law made under Rule 50(a), the court is considered to have submitted the action to the jury subject to the court's later deciding the legal questions raised by the motion. No later than 28 days after the entry of judgment - or if the motion addresses a jury issue not decided by a verdict, no later than 28 days after the jury was discharged - the movant may file a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law and may include an alternative or joint request for a new trial under Rule 59. In ruling on the renewed motion, the court may:

(1) allow judgment on the verdict, if the jury returned a verdict;

(2) order a new trial; or

(3) direct the entry of judgment as a matter of law.

As with motions under Rule 50(b), the time to file a motion for a new trial and/or a motion to alter or amend a judgment is 28 days after the entry of judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(b), (e). Further, ... "the court may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the issues - and to any party - ... after a jury trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court." Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(a)(1).

Rule 50 thus allows a trial court to remove cases or issues from the jury's consideration "when the facts are sufficiently clear that the law requires a particular result." Weisgram v. Marley Co., 528 U.S. 440, 447, 120 S. Ct. 1011, 1017, 145 L. Ed.2d 958 (2000)(quoting 9A C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure §2521, p. 240 (2d ed/ 1995)). Under this Rule, a court should only render judgment as a matter of law "when a party has been fully heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 149, 120 S. Ct. 2097, 2109, 147 L. Ed.2d 105 (2000)(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a)). What's more, in entertaining a motion for judgment as a matter of law, the court should review all of the evidence in the record and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party; it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence, as those are jury functions - not those of a judge. Reeves, 530 U.S. at 150, 120 S. Ct. at 2110 (citing, inter alia, Lytle v. Household Mfg., Inc., 494 U.S. 545, 554-555, 110 S. Ct. 1331, 108 L. Ed.2d 504 (1990); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 254, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed.2d 202 (1986)). "[A]lthough the court should review the record as a whole, it must disregard all evidence favorable to the moving party that the jury is not required to believe." Id.; Springer v. Henry, 435 F.3d 268, 281 (3d Cir. 2006). Finally, "entry of judgment as a matter of law is a 'sparingly' invoked remedy" which is properly utilized "where the record is critically deficient of the minimum quantum of evidence in support of the verdict." Eshelman v. Agere Systems, Inc., 564 F.3d 426, 433 (3d Cir. 2009); Marra v. Philadelphia Housing Authority, 497 F.3d 286, 300 (3d Cir. 2007); CGB Occupational Therapy, Inc. v. RHA Health Services, Inc., 357 F.3d 375, 383 (3d Cir. 2004). The question is not whether there is literally no evidence supporting the unsuccessful party but whether there is evidence upon which a reasonable jury could properly have found its verdict. Eshelman and Marra, both supra.

Motions under Rule 59(e) should also be granted sparingly because of the interests in finality and conservation of scare judicial resources. Bouie v. Varner, Civ. A. No. 00-4846, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8132 at * 3 (E.D. Pa. May 7, 2002); Ruscavage v. Zuratt, 831 F. Supp. 417, 418 (E.D. Pa. 1993). The purpose of a motion to alter or amend judgment is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence. Id. Thus, a judgment may be altered or amended if the party seeking reconsideration establishes at least one of the following grounds: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) availability of new evidence that was not available when the court issued its order; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice . Gutierrez v. Gonzales, 125 Fed. Appx. 406, 417, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 4502 at *29 (3d Cir. 2005)(citing North River Insurance Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995); McGuffey v. Brinks, Inc., 598 F. Supp. 2d 659, 667 (E.D. Pa. 2009); Arlington Industries, Inc. v. Bridgeport Fittings, Inc., 3:06-CV-1105, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77070 at *4 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 28, 2009). To show clear error or manifest injustice, the moving party must base its motion on arguments that were previously raised but were overlooked by the Court. United States v. Jasin, 292 F. Supp.2d 670, 676 (E.D. Pa. 2003). In conducting a clear ...

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