Benton v. Cousins Properties, Inc.

Decision Date27 September 2002
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A.1:00-CV-2903-J.,CIV.A.1:00-CV-2903-J.
Citation230 F.Supp.2d 1351
PartiesMaudine BENTON, Plaintiff, v. COUSINS PROPERTIES, INC., Marriott, Inc., Jeff McCarthy, Linda Beauchamp, and Tracy Baker, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Georgia

Jamie Gail Miller, Whatley Stephenson & Voyles, Atlanta, GA, for Plaintiff.

Stephen W. Riddell and Jennifer R. Williams, Troutman Sanders, R. Peter Catlin, III, Coleman & Dempsey, Atlanta, GA, for Defendants.

ORDER

CARNES, District Judge.

The above-captioned action is before the Court on plaintiff's Motion to Compel [31]; defendants' Motion to Exclude Testimony [47]; defendants Cousins Properties, Inc.'s, Jeff McCarthy's, and Linda Beauchamp's Motion for Summary Judgment [57] and Motion to File a Memorandum of Excess Pages [54]; defendants Sodexho, Inc.'s1 and Tracy Baker's Motion for Summary Judgment [56] and Motion to File Memorandum of Excess Pages [55]; plaintiff's Motion to File a Response Brief Exceeding the Page Limitation [68]; plaintiff's Motion to Supplement her Responses to defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment [71]; plaintiff's Motion to Supplement her Response to defendants' Statements of Material Facts [75]; defendants Cousins Properties, Inc.'s, Jeff McCarthy's, and Linda Beauchamp's (Second) Motion to Exceed the Page Limits [80]; plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Sur-Reply to defendants Cousins Properties, Inc.'s, Jeff McCarthy's, and Linda Beauchamp's Motion for Summary Judgment [84]; plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Sur-Reply to defendants Sodexho, Inc.'s and Tracy Baker's Motion for Summary Judgment [87]; and plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Supplement her Sur-Reply to all defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment [88].

The Court has reviewed the record and the arguments of the parties and, for the reasons set forth below, concludes that plaintiff's Motion to Compel [31] should be DENIED as MOOT; defendants' Motion to Exclude Testimony [47] should be DENIED as MOOT; defendants Cousins Properties, Inc.'s, Jeff McCarthy's, and Linda Beauchamp's Motion for Summary Judgment [57] should be GRANTED; defendants Sodexho, Inc.'s and Tracy Baker's Motion for Summary Judgment [56] should be GRANTED; plaintiff's Motion to Supplement her Responses to defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment [71] should be GRANTED; plaintiff's Motion to Supplement her Response to defendants' Statements of Material Facts [75] should be GRANTED; plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Sur-Reply to defendants Cousins Properties, Inc.'s, Jeff McCarthy's, and Linda Beauchamp's Motion for Summary Judgment [84] should be DENIED; plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Sur-Reply to defendants Sodexho, Inc.'s and Tracy Baker's Motion for Summary Judgment [87] should be DENIED; and plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Supplement her Sur-Reply to all defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment [88] should be DENIED. All motions filed by the parties requesting leave from the Court to file briefs exceeding the page limitations of the Local Rules [54][55][68][80] are GRANTED.

FACTS

This is an action for race discrimination in the formation and performance of contracts, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1985, 1986, and 2000a, and related causes of action under Georgia state law. Plaintiff Maudine Benton filed the Complaint [1] in this action on November 2, 2000, alleging that defendants failed to honor their contracts with her in the same manner that they honored similar contracts with Caucasians and other non-African-Americans.2 The plaintiff rented a conference room with defendants in order to hold a holiday craft show (the "show" or "bazaar") on December 17, 1998. She alleges that, although the defendants allowed the craft show to take place on that day, they unreasonably interfered with the show and they failed to provide all the normal services that they typically provided to white persons who also booked events at defendants' conference facilities.

Unless otherwise indicated, the Court draws the undisputed facts from the defendants' statements of fact filed in connection with their respective motions for summary judgment. If, however, plaintiff has disputed any of those facts and pointed to evidence in the record that supports its version of events, the Court has viewed all evidence and factual inferences in the light most favorable to plaintiff, as required on a defendant's motion for summary judgment. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); McCabe v. Sharrett, 12 F.3d 1558, 1560 (11th Cir. 1994); Reynolds v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., 989 F.3d 465, 469 (11th Cir.1993). Because, at times, the plaintiff has pointed to different facts than those noted by the defendants, the Court has also relied on the plaintiff's separate Statement of Facts [66]3 in discussing the relevant facts set out below.

Defendant Cousins Properties, Inc. ("Cousins") is the property management firm for an office building located at 600 Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia. (Cousins Defendants' Statement of Facts [Cousins SMF] [57] at ¶ 1.) Although this office building is currently known as the "Bank of America Plaza," the building was known as the "NationsBank Plaza" during the relevant time period in 1998 and 1999. Thus, for purposes of this discussion, the Court will refer to this building as the "Plaza." (See Pl. Resp. to Cousins SMF [66] at ¶ 1.) Defendant Linda Beauchamp is the Senior Property Manager at the Plaza and Defendant Jeff McCarthy, the Assistant Property Manager, reports to Beauchamp. (Cousins SMF at ¶ 1.) For the purposes of this discussion, the Court will refer to Cousins, Beauchamp, and McCarthy collectively as the "Cousins Defendants."

Defendant Sodexho, Inc. ("Marriott" or "Sodexho"), formerly known as Sodexho Marriott Services, Inc., is responsible for managing the cafeteria and conference facilities at the Plaza, along with other services such as vending services, office copy services, and executive dining services. (Marriott Defendants' Statement of Material Facts [Marriott SMF] [67] at ¶ 1.) During 1998, Rick Dunham was the general manager of Marriott's operations at the Plaza. (Marriott SMF at ¶ 3.) During the relevant time period, Crystal Brown was a Marriott employee who worked as a sales coordinator booking events for the conference facilities at the Plaza. (Id. at ¶ 4.) Also during the relevant time period, defendant Tracy Baker was an employee of Marriott at the Plaza and, after August, 1998, she was responsible for overseeing the operations of the conference center. (Id. at ¶ 2.) Marriott alleges that Baker's title was "Assistant Manager," while plaintiff asserts that her proper title was "Catering Manager." (See Pl. Resp. to Marriott SMF at ¶ 2.) Although the parties dispute Baker's official title, they agree that she was the person primarily responsible for booking events at the conference facilities at the Plaza during the relevant time period.

In the lobby of the Plaza there is a shoeshine stand called "Plaza Executive Shine" that is provided as an amenity for the building's tenants and the general public. (Cousins SMF at ¶ 2; Plaintiff's Statement of Facts ["Pl. SMF"] [66] at ¶ 3.) From 1996 to 1999, Cousins had an agreement with Arthur "Doc" Arnold to operate the shoeshine stand. (Cousins SMF at ¶ 2.) Arnold was neither a tenant nor an employee of Cousins. (Id.) Plaintiff refers to this agreement between Arnold and Cousins as a "contract," although it appears from the evidence presented by the parties that there was never a written contract that was formally executed. (See Cousins SMF at ¶¶ 2-3; Pl. Resp. to Cousins SMF at ¶¶ 2-3; Marriott SMF at ¶ 5.) McCarthy did send a letter to Arnold dated January 12, 1998, however, in which he outlined the general terms of the agreement between Cousins and Arnold over the operation of Plaza Executive Shine. (Arnold Dep., Ex. 1.) In any event, the parties do not dispute that Cousins had an agreement with Arnold to operate the shoeshine stand and, under this agreement, neither party paid the other, but instead Arnold was entitled to the proceeds generated from the shoeshine stand. (Pl. Resp. to Cousins SMF at ¶ 2.)

Pursuant to the agreement between Cousins and Arnold, Arnold was to select a "qualified operator" to conduct the daily operations of the Plaza's shoeshine stand. (Cousins SMF at ¶ 3; Arnold Dep., Ex. 1.) The only requirements that the operator was required to follow were that the stand would be open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and that the operator was to wear "professional black and white attire." (Id.) Cousins contends that the agreement further provided that the person chosen by Arnold to operate the shoeshine stand, as well as any "substitute" for that person, had to be approved by Cousins' management. (Id.) Plaintiff, on the other hand, contends that the approval of Cousins' management was required only for someone who would substitute for the operator when the operator was not present, and was not required for an "assistant." (Pl Resp. to Cousins SMF at ¶ 3.)

In November, 1997, Arnold selected plaintiff Maudine Benton, an African-American female, to operate the shoeshine stand in the lobby of the Plaza. (Cousins SMF at ¶ 4; Marriott SMF at ¶ 5; Pl. SMF at ¶ 1.) Plaintiff thereafter operated the Plaza shoeshine stand until February, 1999. (Marriott SMF at ¶ 5.) Although the parties characterize the relationship between plaintiff and Cousins differently, the following facts are undisputed: Cousins had a direct arrangement with Arnold to run the shoeshine stand and Arnold was responsible for selecting the operator of the stand, subject to approval by Cousins; Arnold selected the plaintiff to operate the stand from November, 1997 through February, 1999, and Cousins approved plaintiff as the operator throughout that time; plaintiff paid Arnold a weekly fee or "rent" of $100 to...

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