Rawson v. Sears, Roebuck & Co.

Citation822 F.2d 908
Decision Date10 June 1987
Docket NumberNos. 85-1223,85-2366,s. 85-1223
Parties44 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 191, 43 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 37,131, 56 USLW 2026 Gary RAWSON, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. SEARS, ROEBUCK & CO., Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)

David M. Ebel, Davis, Graham & Stubbs, Denver, Colo. (Andrew M. Low, Davis, Graham & Stubbs, Denver, Colo., and James A. Carleo, Colorado Springs, Colo., with him on the brief), for plaintiff-appellee.

Charles G. Bakaly, Jr., O'Melveny & Myers, Los Angeles, Cal. (Ann Kane Smith, Alhambra, Cal., Gregory A. Eurich and Charles M. Johnson, Holland & Hart, Denver, Colo., and Debra L. Boyd and Joanne B. O'Donnell, O'Melveny & Myers, Los Angeles, Cal., with him on the briefs), for defendant-appellant.

Robert E. Williams, Douglas S. McDowell and Thomas R. Bagby, P.C., McGuiness & Williams, Washington, D.C., on the brief, for amicus curiae Equal Employment Advisory Council.

Before McKAY and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges, and BOHANON, District Judge. *


Sears, Roebuck & Company appeals from a denial of post trial motions relating to a $19,096,495.01 judgment against it, plus $11,096.54 in costs, in an age discrimination case. The action was brought by Gary Rawson, a former Sears' employee and store manager, whom Sears fired at age 59.

Rawson was employed by Sears for thirty-three years, becoming manager of the Sears store in Pueblo, Colorado, in 1965, where he served until his termination in 1979. Following his termination he either failed or chose not (the record does not disclose the reason) to pursue his age discrimination claim under the federal antidiscrimination statute enacted for that purpose, Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. Secs. 621-634 (ADEA).

In July, 1981, twenty-eight months after his termination and beyond the statutory period for seeking relief under the ADEA, Rawson sued Sears in the Colorado state courts, stating eleven claims for relief, including several common law causes of action. 1 All of those claims were ultimately dismissed except his claim based on an Sears removed Rawson's suit from state to federal court on grounds of diversity of citizenship. On Sears' subsequent motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the district court held that "the Colorado legislature intended to create a private right of action under C.R.S. Sec. 8-2-116 and that such a right of action is consistent with the state's legislative scheme in labor relations." Rawson v. Sears Roebuck & Co., 530 F.Supp. 776, 778 (D.Colo.1982). It also denied, in a published opinion, Sears' later motion for summary judgment. Rawson v. Sears Roebuck & Co., 554 F.Supp. 327 (D.Colo.1983). Separate jury trials were held on the questions of liability and damage, the outcome of both trials being favorable to Rawson. Following the trial on liability, in a third published opinion, the district court held again that private damage awards were proper under section 8-2-116. Rawson v. Sears Roebuck & Co., 585 F.Supp. 1393 (D.Colo.1984). It then awarded Rawson costs amounting to $11,096.54. At the conclusion of the damages trial the jury awarded Rawson: $580,500 for lost wages and benefits; $264,410 for future wages and benefits and reduction in the value of his pension benefits; $5,000,000 for pain, suffering and humiliation; and $10,000,000 in punitive damages. Sears' motions for judgment n.o.v., new trial, or remittitur were denied. 615 F.Supp. 1546. Judgment entered on the jury verdict included prejudgment interest in the amount of $3,251,585.01, for a total judgment of $19,096,495.01.

                implied private right of action under a Colorado penal statute, Colo.Rev.Stat. Secs. 8-2-116 and 117 (1973). 2   Those sections impose a fine from $100 to $250 upon employers who discharge employees solely because of age. 3   Those provisions had been the law in Colorado for seventy-eight years prior to Rawson's suit without any private action having been brought under them.  Shortly after Rawson's victory in this suit the Colorado legislature repealed the statutes in question, placing a similar provision under the Colorado Antidiscrimination Act (CAA), Colo.Rev.Stat. Secs. 24-34-401 to 406 (1982 & Supp.1986).  Thus, this case and a few which followed are the only ones involving the propriety of private suits under those state penal statutes.  The Colorado Supreme Court has never ruled on the question, and both parties have resisted certification. 4

On appeal Sears asserts multiple assignments of error in the proceedings below. Two threshold issues, which we find dispositive of this appeal, are whether there is an express or an implied private right of action under the Colorado penal statute in question, sections 8-2-116 and 117, either alone or in combination with sections 8-3-108(1)(l ) and 8-3-121(1) of Colorado's Labor Peace Act. Because we find that the statutes in question provide Rawson with neither an express right of action nor an implied private right of action, we find it unnecessary to address the other issues raised in this appeal, and we reverse the judgment below.


At the outset we note that our task here is to interpret and apply the law of Colorado as we believe the Colorado Supreme Court would. City of Aurora v. Bechtel In endeavoring to ascertain the proper construction of state law where no authoritative state court decision exists, we acknowledge that "[t]he views of a resident federal district judge concerning the local law of his home state are entitled to some deference by an appellate court." Corbitt v. Andersen, 778 F.2d 1471, 1475 (10th Cir.1985); see also Inryco, Inc. v. CGR Bldg. Systems, Inc., 780 F.2d 879, 881 (10th Cir.1986); Polin v. Dun & Bradstreet, Inc., 768 F.2d 1204, 1207 (10th Cir.1985); An-Son Corp. v. Holland-America Ins. Co., 767 F.2d 700, 704 (10th Cir.1985); Business Interiors, Inc. v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 751 F.2d 361, 363 (10th Cir.1984). However, "it is inappropriate to defer to the district court's views" where "another resident district court judge has expressed views contrary to those expressed by the trial court" in the case under review. Maughan v. SW Servicing, Inc., 758 F.2d 1381, 1384 n. 2 (10th Cir.1985) (McKay, J.); McGehee v. Farmers Ins. Co., 734 F.2d 1422 (10th Cir.1984) (rule of deference to local federal district judge's interpretation not applied where contrary view expressed by another resident federal district judge). As indicated by the cases cited earlier, federal district judges in Colorado disagree on the question of Colorado law before us. Because of that, and other facts unique to this case, 6 we are not confronted with any issue of deference to the district court's interpretation of Colorado law. 7 We must, therefore, make our own independent inquiry into the proper interpretation With that standard of review in mind, we turn now to an examination of Rawson's arguments that there is either an express or an implied private right of action under sections 8-2-116 and 117.

                Corp., 599 F.2d 382, 386 (10th Cir.1979);  Symons v. Mueller Co., 493 F.2d 972 (10th Cir.1974).  Prior to the district court decision in this case, no Colorado court or federal court applying Colorado law had addressed the particular question of whether a private right of action exists under section 8-2-116 for age discrimination.  Since that decision, federal district courts in Colorado and lower Colorado state courts have reached conflicting conclusions on that issue.   Compare Spulak v. K-Mart Corp., 664 F.Supp. 1395 (D.Colo. 1985) (Finesilver, J.);    Grandchamp v. United Air Lines, Inc., 36 Empl.Prac.Dec.  (CCH) p 34,987 (D.Colo. Jan. 15, 1985) (Carrigan, J.);  and Marks v. Cobe Laboratories, No. 85-CV-2726 (Jefferson Dist.Ct.Colo. Nov. 12, 1985) (all following Rawson and finding that a private right of action exists) with Taylor v. K-Mart Corp., No. 85-M-2336 (D.Colo. Jan. 13, 1986) (Matsch, J.).  Boccalatte v. Asamera Oil (U.S.) Inc., No. 86-CV-6283 (Denver Dist.Ct.Colo. Jan. 11, 1987);  Sandro v. ICM Mortgage Corp., No. 86-CV-6 (Arapahoe Dist.Ct.Colo. July 1, 1986) and Laird v. Montgomery Ward, Inc., No. 85-CV-5569 (Denver Dist.Ct.Colo. Apr. 18, 1986) (finding that no private right of action exists). 5
                of state law, taking due note of the relevant state court and federal district court decisions.   See, e.g., Big River Grain, Inc. v. SBA, 718 F.2d 968 (9th Cir.1983);  Luke v. American Family Mut. Ins. Co., 476 F.2d 1015 (8th Cir.1972), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 856, 94 S.Ct. 158, 38 L.Ed.2d 105 (1973);  Ward v. Hobart Mfg. Co., 450 F.2d 1176 (5th Cir.1971);  Mutual of Omaha Ins. Co. v. Russell, 402 F.2d 339 (10th Cir.1968), cert. denied, 394 U.S. 973, 89 S.Ct. 1456, 22 L.Ed.2d 753 (1969).  In so doing, we "may look to all resources, including decisions of other states, as well as Colorado and federal decisions, and to the general weight and trend of authority."   City of Aurora v. Bechtel Corp., 599 F.2d 382, 386 (10th Cir.1979);  see also Burgert v. Tietjens, 499 F.2d 1 (10th Cir.1974)

Rawson argues that, collectively, sections 8-2-116 and 8-2-117 of the 1903 Labor Relations Act and sections 8-3-108 and 8-3-121 of the 1943 Labor Peace Act create an express right of action for age discrimination. 8 He claims that the language and history of both Acts and the fact that they occupy successive chapters in the same statutory title support his argument. We find his argument unpersuasive. The fact that the two Acts were enacted forty years apart is not alone dispositive; however, absent some clearer indication by the legislature of an intent to link the two Acts, we are reluctant to view the latter one as implicitly incorporating any provisions of the earlier one. Cf. Sterling v. Industrial Comm'n, 662 P.2d 1096 (Colo.App.1982). 9

In addition, from our review of the provisions of the Labor Peace Act and those Colorado ...

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