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Bouchard v. City of Warren

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

May 31, 2018

KENNETH J. BOUCHARD, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF WARREN, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S RENEWED MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW [#87]

          Denise Page Hood Chief Judge, United States District Court

         I. INTRODUCTION

         A jury trial in this matter commenced on August 28, 2017, and it concluded on September 6, 2017. On September 6, 2017, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendant and against Plaintiff on all counts. The Court then denied as moot Defendant's oral and written motions for judgment as a matter of law and Plaintiff's oral motion for judgment as a matter of law. [Dkt. No. 83] Plaintiff has filed a Renewed Motion for Judgment as Matter of Law (“Renewed JMOL Motion”) [Dkt. No. 87], and the Renewed JMOL Motion has been fully briefed. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the Renewed JMOL Motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this suit, alleging that Defendant interfered with his rights to take medical leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. (“FMLA”). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant refused to reinstate him to work prior to undergoing an unlawful independent medical evaluation, such that Plaintiff was constructively discharged.

         At trial, undisputed evidence was introduced that: (a) Plaintiff first requested FMLA leave on June 19, 2014; (b) submitted a physician's note on June 21, 2014; and (c) was approved for FMLA leave on July 2, 2014. [Dkt. No. 87, Ex. 1 and 2 (Joint Trial Exhibits 19, 22, 23, 26)] On July 7, 2014, Phil Easter, Human Resources director for Defendant in 2014 (“Mr. Easter”), sent Plaintiff a letter that said: (1) Mr. Easter had received Plaintiff's July 7, 2014 email request that Plaintiff's FMLA leave be extended through August 11, 2014; and (2) Mr. Easter was approving FMLA leave for Plaintiff through August 8, 2014. [Dkt. No. 87, Ex. 3 at PgID 2163]

         The undisputed evidence introduced at trial revealed that Defendant (via letters prepared by Mr. Easter) advised Plaintiff: (1) on June 20, 2014, that Plaintiff had to “attend an evaluative session with Dr. Daniel Altier . . . before you return to work;” (2) on July 3, 2014, that Plaintiff had “to undergo a ‘fitness for duty' evaluation prior to [his] return to work . . .;” and (3) on July 8, 2014, that, “after your physician has released you for work, you will be reinstated to employment, but due to concerns which I previously stated about your work place behavior, it will be necessary for you to undergo a ‘fitness for duty' evaluation prior to your actual return to duty.” [Dkt. No. 87, Ex. 3 (Joint Trial Exhibits 21, 27, and 30, respectively)] Plaintiff testified that “he did not feel he could return to work without first undergoing this psychological examination” and, because he would not undergo this examination, he suffered a constructive discharge when he resigned on August 1, 2014.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Rule 50

         Judgment as a matter of law should be granted when “viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue of material fact for the jury, and reasonable minds could come to but one conclusion, in favor of the moving party.” Jordan v. City of Cleveland, 464 F.3d 584, 594 (6th Cir. 2006) (citing Noble v. Brinker Int'l, Inc., 391 F.3d 715, 720 (6th Cir. 2004)). See also Gray v. Toshiba Am. Consumer Prods., Inc., 263 F.3d 595, 598 (6th Cir. 2001); Williams v. Nashville Network, 132 F.3d 1123, 1130-31 (6th Cir. 1997); Barnes v. City of Cincinnati, 401 F.3d 729, 736 (6th Cir. 2005). A motion for judgment as a matter of law should not be granted unless reasonable minds could come to only one conclusion, a conclusion that favors the moving party. Radvansky v. City of Olmstead Falls, 496 F.3d 609, 614 (6th Cir. 2007).

         B. Rule 59

         Rule 59(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states: “A new trial may be granted to all or any of the parties and on all or part of the issues (1) in any action in which there has been a trial by jury, for any of the reasons for which new trials have heretofore been granted in actions at law in the courts of the United States ....” A new trial is warranted under Rule 59(a) when a jury has reached a “seriously erroneous result, ” as evidenced by the verdict being against the great weight of the evidence. Ward & Co. v. Duncan, 311 U.S. 243, 251 (1940). As the Sixth Circuit has stated:

In ruling upon a motion for a new trial based on the ground that the verdict is against the great weight of the evidence, a district judge must compare the opposing proofs and weigh the evidence . . . and “it is the duty of the judge to set aside the verdict and grant a new trial, if he is of the opinion that the verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence. . . .”
“Courts are not free to reweigh the evidence and set aside the jury verdicts merely because the jury could have drawn different inferences or conclusions or because judges feel that other results are more reasonable.” Bruner v. Dunaway, 684 ...

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