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Smith v. City of Inkster

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 30, 2015

KEVIN SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF INKSTER, BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE POLICEMEN AND FIREMEN RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF THE CITY OF INKSTER, and HILLIARD L. HAMPTON, JR., in his official and unofficial capacity, jointly and severally, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS CITY OF INKSTER'S AND HILLIARD HAMPTON, JR.'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION [#109] AND GRANTING DEFENDANT BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE FIREMEN AND POLICEMEN RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF THE CITY OF INKSTER'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION [#110] AND DISMISSING ACTION

GERSHWIN A. DRAIN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Presently before the Court is the Defendants City of Inkster's and Hilliard Hampton, Jr.'s, Motion for Reconsideration, or in the Alternative, Motion for Certification Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), filed on November 20, 2014. Also before the Court is the Defendant Board of Trustees of the Firemen and Policemen Retirement System of the City of Inkster's (the "Board") Motion for Reconsideration, or in the Alternative, Motion for Certification Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). Specifically, the Defendants primarily seek reconsideration of this Court's Order denying their respective Motions for Summary Judgment relative to Plaintiff's claims of race discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] See Dkt. No. 106.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Local Rule 7.1(h)(3) of the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan provides:

Generally, and without restricting the Court's discretion, the Court will not grant motions for rehearing or reconsideration that merely present the same issues ruled upon by the Court, either expressly or by reasonable implication. The movant must not only demonstrate a palpable defect by which the Court and the parties and other persons entitled to be heard on the motion have been misled but also show that correcting the defect will result in a different disposition of the case.

E.D. Mich. L.R. 7.1(h)(3). "A palpable defect' is a defect that is obvious, clear, unmistakable, manifest, or plain.'" United States v. Lockett, 328 F.Supp.2d 682, 684 (E.D. Mich. 2004) (citing United States v. Cican, 156 F.Supp.2d 661, 668 (E.D. Mich. 2001)). "[A] motion for reconsideration is not properly used as a vehicle to re-hash old arguments or to advance positions that could have been argued earlier but were not." Smith ex rel. Smith v. Mount Pleasant Pub. Sch., 298 F.Supp.2d 636, 637 (E.D. Mich. 2003) (citing Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. Engler, 146 F.3d 367, 374 (6th Cir.1998)).

III. LAW & ANALYSIS

A. Inkster's and Mayor Hampton's Motion

Defendants Inkster and Hampton argued in their Motion for Summary Judgment that Plaintiff's Title VII and § 1983 claims are barred by the doctrine of res judicata because Plaintiff filed two previous state court actions. The Court agrees with Defendants that the Court should have cited to Sixth Circuit case law identifying the elements of res judicata in Michigan. This oversight amounts to a palpable defect that, when corrected, results in a different disposition of this case.

In Michigan, res judicata bars successive actions where "(1) the prior action was decided on the merits, (2) both actions involve the same parties or their privies, [2] and (3) the matter in the second case was, or could have been resolved in the first." Young v. Twp. of Green Oak, 471 F.3d 674, 680 (6th Cir. 2006).

There is no dispute that Plaintiff filed a workers compensation claim in 2008 in which he alleged that he became disabled as of June 18, 2008 due to the decision to reorganize the police department and transfer him to a different job. In that workers compensation proceeding, Plaintiff claimed he became permanently physically and emotionally disabled. The City disputed Plaintiff was disabled due to a work related event, and trial commenced on April 10, 2010. The workers compensation case was resolved after a full trial. The magistrate judge presiding over the matter determined that Plaintiff was totally disabled because of a work-related injury from June 18, 2008 through November 30, 2008. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit in state court claiming the City's decision to reorganize the department was discriminatory. He again claimed he was totally and permanently disabled as a result and sought lost pension benefits among other remedies. After a jury trial, he was awarded damages including lost pension benefits that he lost by not working to his normal retirement age.

As such, the prior decisions were decided on the merits and involved the same parties. Thus, the first and second prongs of the res judicata test are met. As to the third prong of the res judicata test, the Michigan Supreme Court has explained that whether the matter in this case could have been resolved in the prior cases requires the application of the "transactional test." Washington v. Sinai Hospital, 478 Mich. 412, 420-21 (2007). Citing to Adair, the Washington court explained, "[w]hether a factual grouping constitutes a transaction' for purposes ...


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