Tucker v. Housing Authority of Birmingham Dist., 2:01-CV-2038-RDP.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
Citation507 F.Supp.2d 1240
Docket NumberNo. 2:01-CV-2038-RDP.,2:01-CV-2038-RDP.
PartiesBarry W. TUCKER, Plaintiff, v. HOUSING AUTHORITY OF the BIRMINGHAM DISTRICT, Defendant.
Decision Date24 May 2006

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507 F.Supp.2d 1240
Barry W. TUCKER, Plaintiff,
No. 2:01-CV-2038-RDP.
United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division.
May 24, 2006.

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Barry W. Tucker, Birmingham, AL, Pro se.

Alicia K. Haynes, Kenneth D. Haynes, Haynes & Haynes PC, Birmingham, AL, for Plaintiff.

Paula I. Cobia, Attorney at Law, PC, Anniston, AL, James C. Ayers, Jr., Jones & Ayers LLC, Columbiana, AL, for Defendant.


R. DAVID PROCTOR, District Judge.

The court has before it Plaintiff's Motion for Prejudgment Interest, Instatement and Injunctive Relief Or, in the Alternative, for Front Pay (Doc. # 194) filed February 16, 2006, and Defendant's Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict, or in the Alternative for a New Trial, or in the Alternative for Remittitur (Doc. # 199) filed February 23, 2006. The motions have been fully briefed, and the court held oral argument on March 29, 2006. For the reasons outlined below, the court finds that Defendant's motion is due to be denied and Plaintiff's motion is due to be granted, in part.

I. Procedural History

Given that this case has been pending now for almost five years,1 a brief summary of the procedural history is appropriate to set the stage for the court's discussion of the motions currently before the court. Plaintiff Barry Tucker commenced this action on August 13, 2001 by filing a complaint in this court against the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District ("HABD") and several of its employees. (Doc. # 1). Tucker later amended his complaint to allege claims against only

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HARD and Truman — specifically, Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claims (asserted under § 1983) against both Defendants and Title VII claims against HARD alone. (Doc. # 18). Plaintiff complained that: (1) HARD discriminated against him on the basis of his race (White) and gender (male) in the terms and conditions of his employment and by terminating him (Doc. # 18 Count One); (2) HABD retaliated against him by not selecting him for a vacant position (Doc. # 18, Count Two); and (3) HABD and Truman, by engaging in the conduct described in Counts One and Two, denied him due process of law and the equal protection of those laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment (Doc. # 18, Count Three).

Defendants both filed motions for summary judgment, and Defendant Truman asserted the defense of qualified immunity. (Docs.# 70, 96). In his response to Defendants' motions for summary judgment, Plaintiff abandoned his § 1983 claims against HABD and his due process claims against both Defendants. (Docs.# 112, 138, 141). By order dated July 22, 2004, the court found that certain disputed issues of material fact precluded summary judgment on Plaintiff's remaining claims, and therefore the court denied both Defendants' motions for summary judgment. (Doc. # 124). The court also found that Defendant Truman was not entitled to the defense of qualified immunity. (Doc. # 124).

Defendant Truman filed an interlocutory appeal of the court's summary judgment ruling, specifically challenging the court's determination that qualified immunity did not apply to Plaintiff's claims against her. (Doc. # 125). HABD did not file any briefs on appeal (Doc. # 141), and the Eleventh Circuit noted that this court's disposition of HABD's motion for summary judgment was not before it. (Doc. # 133). Ruling on Truman's appeal, the Eleventh Circuit found that the First Amended Complaint was a "shotgun pleading," vacated this court's order denying Truman summary judgment, and remanded the case so that Plaintiff could replead Count Three to allege "precisely what it is that Truman did to deny Tucker ... equal protection of the law." (Doc. # 133). The Eleventh Circuit also instructed this court to "comb the record to eliminate any material issues of fact, and ... decide whether Truman's conduct denied Tucker any rights clearly established by Supreme Court or Eleventh Circuit precedent." (Doc. # 133).

On remand, this court ordered Plaintiff to file an amended complaint and issued a scheduling order requiring summary judgment submissions by July 22, 2005. (Docs.# 144, 149). Plaintiff's Restated Complaint alleges the following: (1) HABD intentionally discriminated against Plaintiff because of his race and gender by subjecting him to different terms and conditions and by terminating him; (2) HABD retaliated against Plaintiff by not selecting him for an Assistant General Counsel vacancy; and (3) Truman, while acting under color of state law, intentionally discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of his race, gender, and in retaliation for protected activity in violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (as secured by § 1983). (Doc. # 145).

Truman filed a second motion for summary judgment addressing the merits of Plaintiff's claims and asserting again the defense of qualified immunity. (Doc. # 150). HABD filed a "Notice of Defendant HABD's Intent to Adopt Dispositive Motion of Moving Party," noting that "[t]here are similarity of issues between the plaintiff's claims against Ms. Truman and the claims against HABD." (Doc. # 151).

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By memorandum opinion and order dated September 28, 2005 (Docs.# 154,155), the court granted Defendant Truman's motion for summary judgment on both the merits of the claims against her and on her qualified immunity defense. The court denied Defendant HABD's motion for summary judgment and held a pretrial conference on December 6, 2005 on the Plaintiff's claims against HABD. Trial was set for late January 2006.

In anticipation of trial, motions in limine were filed by both parties, and the court held hearings and ruled on the motions. After postponing the trial for one day in order to allow the parties to submit additional authority on one of the issues briefed in the motions in limine, a jury was selected on February 1, 2006. The case proceeded to trial on Plaintiff's claims of sex and race discrimination predicated upon HABD's decision to terminate his employment, and on his retaliation claim predicated upon HABD's failure to re-hire Plaintiff for an attorney position. Plaintiff rested his case on February 6, 2006, and the court denied Defendant's Rule 50(a) motion. (Doc. # 210, at 768-70). Defendant rested that same day, and the court denied Defendant's renewed Rule 50(a) motion. (Doc. # 210, at 773-74). The court then held a charge conference and received no objections from either party to the jury instructions or the special verdict form. (Doc. # 207, at 65; Doc. # 210, at 773-74, 826).

The case was argued and the jury instructed on February 6, 2006. After approximately one hour of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict in Plaintiff's favor on all counts. As reflected by the special verdict form utilized by the court, the jury found from a preponderance of the evidence that the Plaintiff's race or gender was a substantial or motivating factor that prompted Defendant to discharge him and that Plaintiff would not have been discharged from employment for other reasons in the absence of Defendant's consideration of Plaintiff's race or gender. (Doc. # 210, at 830-31). The jury also found from a preponderance of the evidence that Plaintiff was retaliated against by not being rehired for filing an EEOC charge and/or this lawsuit and that Defendant would have rehired Plaintiff in the absence of consideration of the EEOC charge and/or lawsuit. (Doc. # 210, at 831). The jury awarded damages to compensate Plaintiff for a net loss of wages and benefits in the amount of $93,990.38. (Doc. # 210, at 831). The jury also awarded damages to compensate Plaintiff for emotional pain and mental anguish in the amount of $100,000. (Doc. # 210, at 831).2

Plaintiff now seeks equitable relief in the form of reinstatement (or instatement) or front pay and prejudgment interest. (Doc. # 194). Defendant seeks judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, a new trial or remittitur of the jury's damage award. (Doc. # 199). The court will first address Defendant's motions and then will discuss Plaintiff's requests for equitable relief.

II. Defendant's Post-Trial Motions

A. Legal Standards for Evaluating Motions Pursuant to Rules 50 and 59

Defendant challenges the weight and sufficiency of the evidence supporting the jury's verdict by moving for both judgment notwithstanding the verdict pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b)3

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and a new trial pursuant to Rule 59. Defendant also challenges, pursuant to Rule 59, the propriety of the court's decision to admit certain evidence. The standards for a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and a motion for new trial are different. The Supreme Court previously has discussed the interplay between these two types of motions:

Each motion ... has its own office. The motion for judgment cannot be granted unless, as matter of law, the opponent of the movant failed to make a case and, therefore, a verdict in movant's favor should have been directed. The motion for a new trial may invoke the discretion of the court in so far as it is bottomed on the claim that the verdict is against the weight of the evidence, that the damages are excessive, or that, for other reasons, the trial was not fair to the party moving; and may raise questions of law arising out of alleged substantial errors in admission or rejection of evidence or instructions to the jury.

Montgomery Ward & Co. v. Duncan, 311 U.S. 243, 251, 61 S.Ct. 189, 85 L.Ed. 147 (1940).

Specifically, a Rule 50(b) motion for judgment as a matter of law as to a particular issue should be granted when "there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable,...

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