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Edgerton v. Wilkes-Barre Home Care Services, LLC

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 13, 2014

NANCY EDGERTON, Plaintiff,
v.
WILKES-BARRE HOME CARE SERVICES, LLC, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

MATTHEW W. BRANN, District Judge.

For the reasons that follow, the motion for summary judgment of defendant Wilkes-Barre Home Care Services is granted, in accordance with the accompanying Order of this date.

I. General Background

On January 31, 2012, plaintiff Nancy Edgerton filed a complaint alleging that defendant Wilkes-Barre Home Care Services (hereinafter, "WBHCS") discriminated against her because of her age. (ECF No. 1). Specifically, Ms. Edgerton, born 1955, asserted that she was fired by WBHCS because of her age and replaced by someone younger, in violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (hereinafter, "ADEA"), which prohibits employers from "discharg[ing] any individual... because of such individual's age, " 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1), and Pennsylvania's Human Relations Act (hereinafter, "PHRA"), which likewise prohibits "any employer because of the... age... of any individual... to discharge from employment such individual, " 43 P.S. § 955(a).[1]

The parties completed discovery and WBHCS filed a motion for summary judgment on January 15, 2013. (ECF Nos. 20, 32).

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is "material" where it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is "genuine" where "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury, " giving credence to the evidence favoring the nonmovant and making all reasonable inferences in the nonmovant's favor, "could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

For movants and nonmovants alike, the assertion "that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must" be supported by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, " or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). "If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may... consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2).

Thus, where the moving party's motion is properly supported and his evidence, if not controverted, would entitle him to judgment as a matter of law, the nonmoving party, to avoid summary judgment in his opponent's favor, must answer by setting forth "genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson , 477 U.S. at 250. In the face of the moving party's evidence, the nonmoving party's mere allegations, general denials or vague statements will not create a genuine factual dispute. See Bixler v. Cent. Pennsylvania Teamsters Health & Welfare Fund , 12 F.3d 1292, 1302 (3d Cir. 1993). Only citation to specific facts is sufficient. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 250.

Where the nonmoving party has had adequate time for discovery and will bear the burden of proof at trial, "a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial, " and summary judgment is warranted. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

Having offered this encapsulation, the Court would normally stop here. The Court continues, however, because Ms. Edgerton's primary response to numerous factual averments of WBHCS goes as follows: "Defendant's summary judgment motion cannot be based upon testimony of interested witnesses or any evidence a jury is not required to believe, " citing Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc. 530 U.S. 133 (2000) . (See Pl. Facts, Feb. 15, 2013, ECF No. 29 ¶¶ 23, 44, 47, 48, 49, 50, 55, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 84, 85, 86, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 103, 104, 105, 106, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 116, 117, 118, 119, 127). In other words, Ms. Edgerton posits that a "genuine dispute" arises any time that WBHCS bases a material factual assertion on testimony that a jury could possibly disbelieve. WBHCS disagrees, quoting dictum from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit's decision in Luaren W. v. DeFlaminis , 480 F.3d 259 (3d Cir. 2007): "The fact is that in considering a motion for summary judgment the court should believe uncontradicted testimony unless it is inherently implausible even if the testimony is that of an interested witness." Id. at 272.

The Court respectfully believes both parties's statement of the law is incomplete. The Third Circuit's opinion in Schoonejongen v. Curtiss-Wright Corp. , 143 F.3d 120 (3d Cir. 1998), considers the issue at length, and reasons that, contrary to Ms. Edgerton's position, a nonmoving party cannot defeat summary judgment by raising the mere possibility that the jury may disbelieve a witness's testimony. Id. at 130. See also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts"). To successfully oppose a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party must, rather, point to circumstances revealed by the record as a whole that might cause a reasonable jury to doubt the facts (supported by testimony) asserted by the movant. Schoonejongen , 143 F.3d at 130. The nonmoving party does not need to show that the testimony underlying the moving party's factual assertions is "inherently implausible" (whatever that means), but she must supply some basis upon which a reasonable mind might find it implausible.

Where "the nonmoving party has presented no evidence or inferences that would allow a reasonable mind" to doubt the facts asserted by the moving party, then "summary judgment is particularly appropriate" because the nonmoving party has failed to show that the facts are "genuinely" disputed. Id . Accordingly, Ms. Edgerton's repeated bald assertions that a jury is not required to believe testimony ...


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