International Union, UAW, et al. v. General Motors LLC
OPINION and ORDER Denying Defendant's Renewed 98 MOTION for Judgment as a Matter of Law or a New Trial. Signed by District Judge Stephen J. Murphy, III. (DPar)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED
AUTOMOBILE, AEROSPACE, AND
AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS
OF AMERICA (UAW), AND ITS LOCAL
Case No. 2:10-cv-14899
HONORABLE STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III
GENERAL MOTORS LLC,
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S RENEWED MOTION
FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW OR A NEW TRIAL 
Plaintiffs United Auto Workers and its Local 1869 ("UAW") filed a complaint alleging
that Defendant General Motors LLC ("GM") violated a Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The case went to trial and the jury returned a verdict for UAW. GM now moves the Court
to enter judgment as a matter of law in GM's favor, or to order a new trial. For the reasons
stated below, the Court will deny the motion.
Gerald Bosman, Linda Chapman, and Ovidiu Kowalski worked for GM in the Surface
Product Engineering (SPE) unit. See ECF 93. In September 2009, GM laid off Bosman,
Chapman, and Kowalski. Id. In 2010 and 2011, GM hired new employees into the SPE unit.
Id. UAW filed suit against GM on behalf of Bosman, Chapman, and Kowalski. According
to the complaint, GM breached seniority provisions of the 2007 Local Agreement by
discharging the three employees and by refusing to recall them at a later date. ECF 11.
The case was assigned to Judge O'Meara, who granted summary judgment for GM.
UAW appealed. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded for the trial court to resolve two
questions of fact: (1) whether Bosman, Chapman, and Kowalski were capable of
performing the work when laid off; and (2) whether Bosman, Chapman, and Kowalski were
capable of performing the work—and thus had a right to be recalled—when GM hired new
employees into the SPE unit. Int'l Union, UAW v. Gen. Motors LLC, 529 F. App'x 760,
764–65 (6th Cir. 2013).
Following the remand, Judge O'Meara granted UAW's motion for a jury trial over GM's
objection and transferred the case. The Court held a trial by jury, which returned a verdict
for UAW. ECF 95. GM's renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, or a new trial,
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b), a party may file a renewed motion for
judgment as a matter of law, or a new trial, after entry of judgment. A court may grant a
motion for judgment as a matter of law if "there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for
a reasonable jury to find" for a party on any issue. Denhof v. City of Grand Rapids, 494
F.3d 534, 543 (6th Cir. 2007) (quotations omitted). When reviewing a Rule 50 motion, the
Court construes the evidence "in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Id.
Under Rule 59, a court may grant a motion for a new trial if "the verdict is clearly
against the weight of the evidence." Id. To evaluate the motion, the court "must compare
the opposing proofs, weigh the evidence, and set aside the verdict" only if it is
unreasonable. J.C. Wyckoff & Assocs. v. Standard Fire Ins. Co., 936 F.2d 1474, 1487 (6th
Cir. 1991). But "the court is not to set aside the verdict simply because it believes another
outcome is more justified." Denhof, 494 F.3d at 543.
At trial, the Court submitted two questions of fact to the jury: (1) Did GM violate the
2007 Local Agreement when it laid off Bosman, Chapman, and Kowalski?; and (2) Did GM
violate the 2007 Local Agreement when it did not recall Bosman, Chapman, and Kowalski
to the open positions in the SPE in 2010 and 2011? See ECF 95. The jury answered "yes"
to both questions. GM argues that UAW failed to provide sufficient evidence on both
questions and that the jury's verdict was against the clear weight of the evidence.
The 2009 Lay-Offs
At trial, UAW presented a variety of evidence to show that the former employees were
capable of doing the work in the SPE unit at the time they were laid off. GM management
had authored most of the evidence introduced by the UAW. For example, GM management
classified Bosman and Chapman as "Level 7" senior designers with "expert" design skill
sets, and Kowalski as a "Level 6" designer with "proficient" design skill sets. Pl. Trial Exh.
5; ECF 105, PgID 2201–02. GM management awarded all three former employees merit
pay increases. Pl. Trial Exh. 8; ECF 105, PgID 2203. Additionally, GM provided full
"enhanced variable pay" bonuses to each former employee each time the bonuses were
offered. Pl. Trial Exh. 8, 12; ECF 105, PgID 2277–79. GM supervisors wrote performance
reviews of Bosman, Chapman, and Kowalski; each review stated that the former
employees had achieved their performance objectives. Pl. Trial Exh. 16–17, 19–23. GM
never enrolled any of the three former employees in the "performance improvement plan,"
a program designed for employees with performance deficiencies. ECF 104, PgID 2013
(Bosman's testimony), id. at 2058 (Chapman's testimony), id. at 2087–88 (Kowalski's
testimony); ECF 105, PgID 2209 (GM supervisor Debbie Lystad's testimony). In addition,
Lystad testified that Bosman, Chapman, and Kowalski performed their jobs well, and had
never been considered incapable of performing their jobs prior to being laid off. ECF 105,
PgID 2157, 2138–39. And when the former employees were informed of their layoffs, GM
managers told them it was not related to their work performance. ECF 104, PgID 2028,
GM contends that the testimony of the employees themselves regarding their skill
sets is generally not entitled to any weight. ECF 98, PgID 1772 (citing Majewski v.
Automatic Data Processing, Inc., 274 F.3d 1106, 1116 (6th Cir. 2001)). Instead, GM
argues, the opinion of the pertinent decision maker—Lystad—controls the assessment of
an employee's capabilities. Id. (citing Shapira v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 88 F. Supp. 2d
813, 829 (E.D. Tenn. 1998), aff'd, 201 F.3d 441 (6th Cir. 1999)). GM's argument is well
taken, but unavailing. UAW's evidence regarding the former employee's capabilities
originated from GM management, not from the employees. In essence, UAW argued to the
jury that GM leadership had assessed Bosman, Chapman, and Kowalski as capable
employees based on the Level 7 and Level 6 classifications, merit pay increases, enhanced
variable pay disbursements, and positive performance reviews.
UAW produced legally sufficient evidence to establish that Bosman, Chapman, and
Kowalski were capable of doing the work when they were laid off in September 2009. And
the jury's verdict for UAW was not clearly against the weight of the evidence.
The 2010 and 2011 Re-Hiring
In its motion and reply, GM focuses on UAW's evidence relating to the second
question of fact posed to the jury: whether Bosman, Chapman, and Kowalski were capable
of doing the work in 2010 and 2011—when GM began re-hiring into the SPE unit. GM
submits that UAW only offered a brief statement from former SPE employee Steve
Champion regarding this question of fact and thus failed to present sufficient evidence.
Champion testified that—from September 2009 until 2012—"[t]he work never changed" in
the SPE unit. ECF 104, PgID 2045–47. He further clarified, however, that "the volume" of
work in the SPE increased after the former employees were laid off. Id.
In contrast, GM points to the detailed testimony of Lystad, who discussed at length
the post-2009 work in SPE. She told the jury that Bosman, Chapman, and Kowalski could
not do the work post-2009 because they were novices and the SPE had eliminated
novice-level positions in SPE. ECF 104, PgID 2138. GM supported their position by
showing the jury a Strengthening Technical Excellence (STE) matrix—an employee
classification chart—that listed Bosman, Chapman, and Kowalski as novices. Id.
But UAW offered contradictory evidence. For example, UAW presented testimony to
show that the STE matrices were unrelated to employee performance and that former
employees were unfamiliar with the STE matrices. ECF 104, PgID 2049 (Champion), 2039
(Bosman), 2073–74 (Chapman), 2088 (Kowalski). UAW elicited testimony from Lystad
stating that the STE matrix existed to train and develop employees. ECF 105, PgID 2212.
UAW submitted the 2007 Agreement as evidence, and it did not include novice
classifications or any reference to the STE matrix. Pl. Trial Exh. 2.
Also, UAW directly challenged GM's evidence that the only positions remaining in
SPE after 2009 were proficient and expert-level positions. UAW offered evidence showing
that GM hired novice-level employees, like Eric Meister, in 2010 and 2011 which apparently
served to undermine Lystad's claim that the work had changed and no novice positions
existed in SPE post-2009. ECF 105, PgID 2215. Also, UAW presented evidence that GM
intended to bypass the former employees' recall rights by placing new hires into overtime
subgroup "B" instead of "C," as required by the 2007 Agreement. Id. at 2222. GM argues
that the Court erred by refusing to admit the 2013 Local Agreement as evidence, which
eliminated overtime subgroup C. The Court disagrees. The 2013 Agreement did not
govern—or exist—in 2010 and 2011 and is, in the Court's judgment, irrelevant.
And the Court cannot discount longtime SPE employee Champion's testimony based
on brevity alone. Although Champion's testimony was concise and direct, the jury might
have credited his testimony over Lystad's for exactly that reason. Also, the jury heard
Lystad express some uncertainty about whether the work changed in SPE post-2009. ECF
104, PgID 2139.
UAW presented sufficient evidence to meet its burden and to support the jury's
verdict. The Court cannot say that the jury reached a verdict against the clear weight of the
evidence "simply because different inferences and conclusions could have been drawn or
because other results are more reasonable." Wyckoff, 936 F.2d at 1487. As a result, the
Court will deny GM's motion for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial.
The Jury Trial
GM also argues that Judge O'Meara erred by granting UAW's untimely motion for a
jury trial. GM contends that the prior court abused its discretion by granting the motion
three years after discovery had closed.
At the outset, GM's cites inapposite authorities. For instance, Perez v. Cathedral
Buffet, Inc., No. 5:15CV1577, 2016 WL 4468111, at *1 (N.D. Ohio Aug. 24, 2016), like the
other cases cited by GM, shows a district court exercising its discretion to deny a motion
for a jury trial. But neither Perez nor any other case cited by GM shows that a district court
abused its discretion by granting an untimely motion for a jury trial.
Nevertheless, GM contends that a new trial is warranted because Judge O'Meara's
decision to grant the jury trial caused prejudice. GM argues that it had conducted a benchtrial litigation strategy during discovery: abbreviated depositions, a limited witness list, and
no written statements from the employees. And GM notes that when the prior court granted
UAW's motion for a jury trial, discovery had been closed for nearly three years.
But UAW argues that GM did not seek to re-open discovery to prevent the alleged
prejudice. GM avers that a motion to re-open discovery would not have been well received
by the prior court. GM may very well be correct, but the Court finds the argument
unpersuasive. If GM expected to suffer prejudice from a jury trial because it pursued a
bench-trial discovery strategy, it should have moved to re-open discovery after the prior
court granted the jury-trial motion. But GM did not move to re-open discovery, re-depose
witnesses, amend its witness list, seek written statements from the former employees, or
add expert witnesses. Also, after the case was transferred, GM had an opportunity to move
to re-open discovery before a judicial officer who might have received the motion
differently. But GM did not seek to re-open discovery with the transferee Court either.
Judge O'Meara's decision may have prejudiced GM. But having received no challenge
to the previous ruling and no request to re-open discovery, the Court can ascertain no
grounds to warrant a new trial.
WHEREFORE, it is hereby ORDERED that GM's Renewed Motion for Judgment 
is DENIED WITH PREJUDICE.
s/Stephen J. Murphy, III
STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III
United States District Judge
Dated: March 20, 2017
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was served upon the parties and/or
counsel of record on March 20, 2017, by electronic and/or ordinary mail.
s/David P. Parker
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