DANIELS v. SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE HARVEY BARTLE, III ON 1/28/14. 1/29/14 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(mbh, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
DOROTHY E. DANIELS
THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF
PHILADELPHIA AND LESLIE MASON
January 28, 2014
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
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”).1
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,
Daniels also sued individual defendants Rachel Marianno,
Kenneth Christy, and Katherine Pendino. The court granted
summary judgment in their favor on November 7, 2013.
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
(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).
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.”
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
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.
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 F.3d 565, 572 (3d Cir.
2002) (quoting Olefins Trading, Inc. v. Han Yang Chem. Corp., 9
F.3d 282, 289 (3d Cir. 1993)).
Finally, Rule 59(e) states that “[a] motion to alter or
amend a judgment must be filed no later than 28 days after the
entry of the judgment.”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e).
A Rule 59(e)
motion may be granted when there is a “need to correct clear error
of law to prevent manifest injustice.”
N. River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA
Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995).
We review the trial record in the light most favorable
to the defendants, the verdict winners.
Starceski v. Westinghouse
Elec. Corp., 54 F.3d 1089, 1095 (3d Cir. 1995).
The evidence of
the defendants relevant to the present motion consisted of the
Mason was the principal at the Thomas Mifflin School
during the time period in question.
She testified that she
informed Daniels in at least one face-to-face conversation that due
to budget changes, Daniels would need to obtain an additional
teaching certification in order to keep her position for the
It was uncontested that Daniels failed to obtain
the required certification.
Mason further testified that Daniels’
replacement, a Caucasian who was younger than Daniels, had the
qualifications necessary to take the position.
Mason denied that
she had any racial or age-related animus towards Daniels.
To corroborate Mason’s testimony with respect to the
qualifications of Daniels and her replacement, the defendants
introduced printouts from the Pennsylvania Department of
Education’s Teacher Information Management System website, a
publicly accessible database which the School District accesses in
assisting it to make its staffing decisions.
showed the teaching certifications of Daniels and her replacement.
They confirmed that Daniels did not have the required certification
while her replacement did.
Finally, on the issue of Daniels’ inability to
participate in selecting her new school because she was not
notified of her transfer, defense witnesses stated that, even if
Daniels did not have actual notice of her impending transfer from
her conversations with Mason, any failure on the School District’s
part to provide timely written notice to Daniels would have been
only a clerical mistake and nothing more.
In support of her instant motion, Daniels first contends
the court erred in denying her pretrial motion in limine to exclude
the printouts from the Pennsylvania Department of Education
website, which had not been produced until one week before trial.
According to Daniels, the printouts should have been excluded as
improperly disclosed under Rule 37(c)(1).
Rule 37(c)(1) states that “[i]f a party fails to provide
information or identify a witness as required by Rule 26(a) or (e),
the party is not allowed to use that information or witness to
supply evidence on a motion, at a hearing, or at a trial, unless
the failure was substantially justified or is harmless.”
Civ. P. 37(c)(1).
Rule 26 requires identification of each exhibit
a party intends to offer at least 30 days before trial.
Disclosures must be supplemented “in a timely manner
if the party learns that in some material respect [a] disclosure or
response is incomplete or incorrect.”
In this case, several months before trial, Daniels
requested the “complete personnel file” of her replacement, and the
School District produced what records it had in its possession at
The School District does not keep up-to-date teaching
certifications in its files.
It simply relies on the Department of
Education website for this information when needed.
information from the website was not in the School District’s
custody or possession at the time of Daniels’ request, and no
records of the replacement teacher’s certifications were produced
at that time.
After the court commented on the absence of any
teaching certification records in its Memorandum accompanying the
grant of partial summary judgment on November 7, 2013, the School
District accessed the Department of Education website, printed out
a listing of the teaching certifications of Daniels and her
replacement, and provided a supplemental disclosure of those
printouts to Daniels on the same day.
The information in the printouts was publicly
accessible, not disputed, and independently corroborated by witness
While Daniels argues that she was denied the
opportunity to “prepare a defense and assess trial tactics and risk
at trial,” she does not explain how she would have prepared
differently had she been apprised of the printouts earlier or how
that preparation would have affected the outcome of the trial.
Under these circumstances, we find that the failure to produce the
printouts until the week before trial, when the School District
obtained them, was both substantially justified and harmless.
Ms. Daniels further takes issue with Paragraph 41 of the
instructions submitted to the jury.
Paragraph 41 conformed
substantially to the Third Circuit Model Civil Jury Instructions,
which guided the jury on how it was permitted to consider the
reasons that the defendants put forward for their conduct in light
of the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework for employment
792, 802 (1973).
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S.
Under that familiar framework, the defendant
bears only a burden of producing evidence of legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for its actions.
burden of proof.
It is not saddled with the
McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802; Reeves v.
Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 142 (2006).
Paragraph 41 explained to the jury how this burden affected their
task in assessing the evidence.
Daniels maintains that “no witness on behalf of [the
School District] ever testified to the reason” for the defendants’
actions, and thus, the only support given at trial for the
instruction in Paragraph 41 was “speculation and innuendo.”
This is an inaccurate description of the evidence presented at
trial, and it misapprehends the allocations of evidentiary burdens
in a case such as this one.
Even excluding the printouts with
which Daniels takes issue, the witness testimony described above
that was presented by the defendants at trial satisfied their
burden of going forward.
See Reeves, 530 U.S. at 142.
instruction in Paragraph 41 was therefore appropriate.
530 U.S. at 142.
Having carefully considered Daniels’ arguments, we
conclude that there was no “clear error of law” that would justify
granting a new trial under Rule 59(a), and there was no
“miscarriage of justice” to support amending or altering the
judgment under Rule 59(e).
N. River Ins. Co., 52 F.3d at 1218;
Gagliardo, 311 F.3d at 572.
In addition, Daniels has not previously made any motion
for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50, and as such, we may
not consider her present motion under Rule 50(b).
Runyon, 130 F.3d 568, 572 (3d Cir. 1997).
Even if we were to do
so, she would not be entitled to judgment as a matter of law for
the same reasons that her requests under Rule 59 fail.
result, the motion of Daniels for judgment as a matter of law under
Rule 50(b), for new trial under Rule 59(a), or to alter or amend
the judgment under Rule 59(e) will be denied in its entirety.
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