113 F.3d 1498 (8th Cir. 1997), 96-3169, Curtis v. Electronics & Space Corp.

Docket Nº:96-3169.
Citation:113 F.3d 1498
Party Name:Dorothy CURTIS, Plaintiff/Appellee, v. ELECTRONICS & SPACE CORPORATION, Defendant/Appellant.
Case Date:May 28, 1997
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 1498

113 F.3d 1498 (8th Cir. 1997)

Dorothy CURTIS, Plaintiff/Appellee,

v.

ELECTRONICS & SPACE CORPORATION, Defendant/Appellant.

No. 96-3169.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

May 28, 1997

Submitted April 18, 1997.

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John Benton Renick, St. Louis, Missouri, argued, for Defendant-Appellant.

John Douglas Lynn, St. Louis, Missouri, argued, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before RICHARD S. ARNOLD, Chief Judge, FAGG and MURPHY, Circuit Judges.

MURPHY, Circuit Judge.

A jury found that the Electronics & Space Corporation (ESC) willfully discriminated against Dorothy Curtis on the basis of her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634 (1997), and awarded her back pay and liquidated damages. The district court 1 then added front pay and attorney fees. ESC appeals from the judgments. We affirm.

Dorothy Curtis was fired from her job in the administrative services department of ESC in 1991, when she was 63 years old. ESC was reducing its workforce, and the manager of the department, Cathy Crosby, was asked by the head of the department, David Taylor, to recommend employees for termination. Crosby recommended Curtis who was then laid off. Curtis testified at trial that at the meeting in which she was told she was losing her job, "Ms. Crosby told me that there was a decline in the work in my area and I was going to be 64, [on] my birthday July the 5th, and it was decided that I was going to be laid off because of my age."

The jury found that ESC had willfully violated the ADEA and awarded Curtis $33,380 for back pay, to which the district court added $33,380 in liquidated damages. An evidentiary hearing on Curtis' request for equitable relief was held after the jury trial and resulted in her receiving $40,303 in front pay. She also was awarded attorney fees in an amount lower than she sought.

ESC appeals from the judgments and the denial of its motion for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, a new trial. ESC presents three major arguments: there was insufficient evidence to support the jury finding that it violated the ADEA, its conduct was not willful, and the district court erred by awarding Curtis front pay.

I.

ESC contends that there was insufficient evidence to support a jury verdict in Curtis' favor and that the court erred by not granting its motion for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial. Curtis' testimony that Crosby told her she was being terminated on account of her age should not have been credited. ESC presented evidence that Curtis had told another employee that she did not know why she had been fired and that her contemporaneous notes of the meeting with Crosby did not mention age discrimination. There was also testimony from another person who attended the meeting at which

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Curtis was fired who said that age was not discussed.

The standard of review of a denial of a motion for judgment as a matter of law is de novo. Wiehoff v. GTE Directories Corp., 61 F.3d 588, 591 (8th Cir.1995). The moving party must show that no reasonable juror could have found for the opposing party. Newhouse v. McCormick & Co., 110 F.3d 635, 639 (8th Cir.1997). All evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, and the winning side should receive the benefit of all reasonable inferences. Ryther v. KARE 11, 108 F.3d 832, 844 (8th Cir.1997) (en banc), petition for cert. filed, 65 U.S.L.W. 3694 (U.S. April 4, 1997) (No. 96-1571). The court should also assume that all conflicts in the evidence were resolved in favor of the verdict and that the prevailing party proved all the facts its evidence tended to prove. Id. "Only when there is a complete absence of probative facts to support the conclusion reached does a reversible error appear." Id. at 845 (quoting Lavender v. Kurn, 327 U.S. 645, 653, 66 S.Ct. 740, 744, 90 L.Ed. 916 (1946)).

The district court did not err in denying the motion for judgment as a matter of law. There was sufficient evidence to support a verdict in favor of Curtis. Although there was evidence that challenged her credibility, the court's role is not to reassess the credibility of the witnesses. E.g., Fox v. T-H Continental Ltd. Partnership, 78 F.3d 409, 413 (8th Cir.1996). The jury is free to credit or discredit testimony as it believes appropriate, and it was up to...

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