DOROTHY E. DANIELS
THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA AND LESLIE MASON
Harvey Bartle III J.
Before the court is the motion of plaintiff Dorothy E. Daniels (“Daniels”) for post trial relief from the judgment entered on November 22, 2013. She seeks judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a new trial under Rule 59(a), or an altered or amended judgment under Rule 59(e).
Daniels, an African-American former school teacher, has brought this race and age employment discrimination action under state and federal law against the School District of Philadelphia (the “School District”) and Leslie Mason (“Mason”). Following a grant of partial summary judgment, this action was tried to a jury on the issue of whether Daniels’ transfer from the Thomas Mifflin School in 2010, her replacement at that school by a younger, Caucasian teacher, or her subsequent inability fully to participate in selecting the school to which she would be transferred were a result of race or age discrimination on the part of the School District or Mason. The jury found in favor of these defendants, and judgment was entered consistent with the verdict.
We begin with a brief review of the pertinent provisions of Rule 50 and Rule 59. Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states:
(a) Judgment as a Matter of Law.
(1) In General. If a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue, the court may:
(B) grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against the party on a claim or defense that, under the controlling law, can be maintained or defeated only with a favorable finding on that issue.
(2) Motion. A motion for judgment as a matter of law may be made at any time before the case is submitted to the jury. The motion must specify the judgment sought and the law and facts that entitle the movant to the judgment.
(b) Renewing the Motion After Trial; Alternative Motion for a 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... 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.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 50. Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate when there is an absence of evidence on an issue or claim essential to a non-moving party's cause of action. The evidence will be considered legally insufficient where, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, “the record is critically deficient of that minimum quantum of evidence from which the jury might reasonably afford relief.” Williamson v. Piper Aircraft Corp., 968 F.2d 380, 384 (3d Cir. 1992). In deciding whether judgment as a matter of law is appropriate, “the court may not weigh the evidence, determine the credibility of witnesses, or substitute its version of the facts for the jury’s version.” Eddy v. V.I. Water & Power Auth., 369 F.3d 227, 230 n.4 (3d Cir. 2004). "Although judgment as a matter of law should be granted sparingly, a scintilla of evidence is not enough to sustain a verdict of liability." Id.
Motions for judgment as a matter of law filed under Rule 50(b) after the entry of judgment may only be considered by the court when the moving party has made a motion for judgment as a matter of law before the case has been submitted to the jury. The Rule 50(b) motion may only be based upon the specific grounds previously asserted in the original motion. Williams v. Runyon, 130 F.3d 568, 572 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing Orlando v. Billcon Int’l, Inc., 822 F.2d 1294, 1297-98 (3d Cir. 1987)).
In contrast, a motion under Rule 59(a) provides that a new trial may be granted “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). As our Court of Appeals has explained, “[a] court may grant a new trial ‘where a miscarriage of justice would result if the verdict were to stand.’” Gagliardo v. Connaught Labs., Inc., 311 ...