Carter v. Hickory Healthcare Inc., 092718 FED6, 17-4199

Docket Nº:17-4199
Opinion Judge:SUTTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE
Party Name:Styla Y. Carter, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Hickory Healthcare Inc.; Hickory Ridge Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Defendants-Appellees. Edward L. Gilbert, Appellant,
Attorney:Edward L. Gilbert, EDWARD L. GILBERT CO., LPA, Akron, Ohio, for Appellants. Scott Salsbury, Laura Kramer Rubadue, SALSBURY & SALSBURY, LPA, Hudson, Ohio, for Appellee Hickory Healthcare, Inc.
Judge Panel:Before: SUTTON, McKEAGUE, and KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:September 27, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Styla Y. Carter, Plaintiff-Appellant,

Edward L. Gilbert, Appellant,

v.

Hickory Healthcare Inc.; Hickory Ridge Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 17-4199

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

September 27, 2018

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Akron. No. 5:14-cv-02691; Kathleen B. Burke, Magistrate Judge; Sara E. Lioi, District Judge.

COUNSEL

ON BRIEF:

Edward L. Gilbert, EDWARD L. GILBERT CO., LPA, Akron, Ohio, for Appellants.

Scott Salsbury, Laura Kramer Rubadue, SALSBURY & SALSBURY, LPA, Hudson, Ohio, for Appellee Hickory Healthcare, Inc.

Before: SUTTON, McKEAGUE, and KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

SUTTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE

After Hickory Healthcare fired Styla Carter from her job as a nursing assistant, she sued the company for discrimination. The district court ruled that she had filed her lawsuit too late and could not proceed. It then sanctioned her lawyer, Edward Gilbert, because he had advanced a claim that was clearly time barred. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion in imposing sanctions, we affirm.

I.

Styla Carter has asthma and cannot be around cigarette smoke. When she began working for Hickory Healthcare, the nursing home took note of her medical condition and exempted her from monitoring patients' smoke breaks. In July 2007, a new supervisor changed course and told Carter to work the smoke breaks. Carter refused, and Hickory fired her for insubordination.

That same month, Carter filed an unlawful discrimination claim with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. The state agency informed Carter that it had filed a parallel charge with its federal counterpart, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The state agency told Carter that, "[w]hen one agency completes its investigation, it will share the information it has gathered with the other agency. When the case is resolved, it will be considered closed with both" agencies. R. 103-2 at 5.

For the next six years, the complaint inched its way through the state system. In November 2013, the Ohio Commission ruled for Carter, ordering Hickory to reinstate her and to pay her lost wages. Soon after, Carter asked the federal agency for a right-to-sue letter. Because Carter had moved to a new location without notifying the federal agency, it mailed the right-to-sue letter to her old address. Over the next few months, Carter's attorney, Edward Gilbert, contacted the federal agency, learned that the letter had been sent to her old address, and in November 2014 procured a copy of the letter dated February 20, 2014. Carter filed her lawsuit in federal district court on December 9, 2014.

The court concluded that Carter's claim was time barred because she filed her lawsuit more than 90 days after the date on her right-to-sue letter. The court also granted Hickory Healthcare's motion to sanction Gilbert for "unreasonably and vexatiously" maintaining Carter's "clearly time-barred action." R. 130 at 3; see 28 U.S.C. § 1927.

Gilbert appealed. We dismissed the appeal because the sanctions order was not yet final. No. 16-4233, 2017 WL 5185358 (6th Cir. Jan. 6, 2017).

On remand, the court entered a final sanctions order in the amount of $25, 995.32.

II.

Before considering the merits, we must check our jurisdiction to hear this case.

That digression requires a bit more background about the interaction between the district court judge's and magistrate judge's rulings. After the district court granted Hickory's motion for sanctions, it referred the matter to a magistrate judge to compute the amount. The magistrate judge determined that Gilbert should pay $25, 995.32. Instead of reviewing the magistrate's computation with fresh eyes, the district court judge reviewed the decision for clear error. That was a misstep-though one that...

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