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Jennifer Brown v. Davita Dialysis

April 4, 2012

JENNIFER BROWN,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
DAVITA DIALYSIS, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION

In this case, plaintiff Jennifer Brown alleges that her former employer, defendant DaVita Dialysis ("defendant" or "DaVita"), discriminated against her based on her race, retaliated against her when she complained about the alleged discrimination, and failed to compensate her for time she was required to work in excess of her scheduled forty-hour workweek. She claims, inter alia, that Christopher Paul, her supervisor at DaVita's West Philadelphia clinic, wrongfully terminated her from her job as a nurse on November 1, 2007.

By Order dated November 8, 2011, the Court ruled on several motions in limine filed by both parties. On November 14, 2011, the Court granted partial judgment on the pleadings to Paul and DaVita employees Linda Gaeto and Jill Tortual as to Count VII of the Complaint.*fn1 Brown v. DaVita Dialysis, Civ. no. 09-3892, 2011 WL 5523823 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 14, 2011). On February 13, 2012, the Court ruled on an additional set of motions in limine. Brown v. DaVita Dialysis, Civ. no. 09-3892, 2012 WL 460067 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 13, 2012). Now before the Court are Defendant's Motion in Limine to Preclude the Introduction of or Any Reference to Christopher Paul's May 17, 2010, Resignation Letter ("Defendant's February 17, 2012, Motion in Limine") and Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Exclude Any Evidence, Reference, Argument, Suggestion and/or Innuendo that Linda Gaeto Is Not the Proper Comparator to Plaintiff Jennifer Brown ("Plaintiff's February 23, 2012, Motion in Limine"). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendant's February 17, 2012, Motion in Limine and denies Plaintiff's February 23, 2012, Motion in Limine.

II. DEFENDANT'S FEBRUARY 17, 2012, MOTION IN LIMINE

Defendant moves to exclude Christopher Paul's May 17, 2010, Resignation Letter to Dennis Skrajewski, Paul's manager at DaVita ("Resignation Letter").*fn2 Paul writes:

West Philadelphia's clinical scores and financial outcomes were amongst the lowest in the division in 2009 mostly because I over estimated my ability to manage both West Philadelphia and Cobbs effectively. Since my return to only managing West Philadelphia our clinical outcomes have improved . . . yet this has not been good enough. In early February I was "written up" for my poor performance in 2009 and while the numbers continued to improve I was "written up" again in April this time citing lack of basic leadership skills and integrity. I do not agree with the assessment of my management skills and I am personally offended that you have attacked my integrity. . . .

I do not wish to resign my position but feel as though I have no other options. You mentioned in our last meeting that you knew I had interviewed with FMC. This is not true. . . . The fact of the matter is that I have felt an increasing lack of leadership since Kevin left the region and while that has finally been addressed I fear that the change is too little and has come too late . . . .

Do [sic.] to the fact that I feel this is an irreconcilable situation I am submitting my resignation effective May 31st [May 21st]*fn3 2010. As we had agreed upon . . . DaVita will not contest my filing for and receiving unemployment benefits.

(Resignation Letter, Def.'s Feb. 17, 2012, Mot. Limine Ex. A, at 1.) "Resignation accepted -- content of the letter is inaccurate" is handwritten on the letter, along with the date "5-18-10" and a signature that is difficult to read.*fn4 (Id.)

Defendant argues that the Resignation Letter is not relevant and is unfairly prejudicial. Specifically, defendant asserts that the Resignation Letter is not admissible because it was written more than two-and-a-half years after plaintiff's termination and "neither states nor implies that [Paul's] management difficulties encompassed racial discrimination." (Def.'s Feb. 17, 2012, Mot. in Limine 2.) Plaintiff argues that the Resignation Letter is relevant for two reasons. First, according to plaintiff, the letter "admits and describes the kind of issues that merit management and written disciplinary action," which shows that "Paul should have treated plaintiff like defendant treated Paul"-i.e., by merely disciplining her instead of terminating her. (Pl. Jennifer Brown's Answer Def.'s Feb. 17, 2012, Mot. Limine ("Pl.'s Ans.") 4.) Second, plaintiff argues that the letter "basically admits that DaVita allowed Paul to leave his employment, rather than being terminated, on the condition that he would receive additional financial benefits" in the form of unemployment compensation. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff avers that this constituted an "improper quid-pro quo related to Paul's continued cooperation with DaVita on this litigation." (Id. at 3, 5.)

"Evidence is relevant if (a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and (b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action." Fed. R. Evid. 401; see also Ansell v. Green Acres Contracting Co., Inc., 347 F.3d 515, 523--25 (3d Cir. 2003). Although relevant evidence is generally admissible pursuant to Rule 402, relevant evidence may be excluded "if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence." Fed. R. Evid. 403.

The Resignation Letter is not relevant to plaintiff's claim that she was wrongfully fired in 2007. Like the Corrective Action Form and E-mail String addressed in the Court's Memorandum and Order dated February 13, 2012, the Resignation Letter only concerns the events surrounding Paul's termination in 2010. It is "too remote in time from the facts giving rise to this case to have any probative value" and "does not support an inference of racial discrimination." Brown, 2012 WL 460067, at *2 (citing, inter alia, Ansell, 347 F.3d at 525; Fuentes v. Perskie, 32 F.3d 759, 762 (3d Cir. 1994)). The letter-the contents of which may be "inaccurate," according to handwritten note of the person who accepted the resignation-tends to establish that DaVita's West Philadelphia clinic had poor "clinical scores and financial outcomes" in 2009 and that Paul and Skrajewski's relationship deteriorated rapidly in 2010. It does not tend to establish any fact of consequence to plaintiff's claims that she was wrongfully terminated and not fully compensated for the hours that she worked in 2007.

Plaintiff attempts to distinguish the Resignation Letter from the Corrective Action Form and E-mail String addressed in the Court's February 13, 2012, Memorandum, but these efforts are unpersuasive. Plaintiff argues that the Resignation Letter proves that DaVita's disciplinary process broke down in her termination in 2007. To the contrary, the letter merely states that Paul was twice "written up"-in February 2010 for "poor performance in 2009" and in April 2010 for a "lack of . . . basic leadership skills and integrity"-and that, due to his differences with Skrajewski, Paul felt he had "no . . . options" other than resigning. (Resignation Letter 1.) Nothing in the letter regarding DaVita's ...


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