Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

STRATTON v. DEPARTMENT FOR THE AGING FOR THE CITY

March 12, 1996

JOYCE STRATTON, Plaintiff, against THE DEPARTMENT FOR THE AGING FOR THE CITY OF NEW YORK, THE CITY OF NEW YORK, and PREMA MATHAI-DAVIS, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SCHEINDLIN

 SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, U.S.D.J.:

 After a five day trial in this age discrimination action, the jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff Joyce Stratton. The jury found that age was a determinative factor in Defendants' decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment at the New York City Department for the Aging, and/or their decision not to recall or rehire her. The jury also found that the decision not to rehire Plaintiff was motivated by a desire to retaliate against her for filing an age discrimination claim, and that Defendants' violation of the law was willful. The jury awarded plaintiff $ 500,000 in damages. *fn1"

 A variety of post-trial motions are now before this Court. Defendants move, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b), for judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff's claims of disparate treatment and retaliation. *fn2" Defendants also move, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(a), for a new trial on the grounds that the jury reached a "seriously erroneous" result because of the Court's wrongful admission of statistical evidence. Finally, Defendants move for a new trial, or a substantial remittitur, on the grounds that the jury's award was "clearly excessive." Plaintiff not only opposes each of these motions, but has cross-moved for an award of front pay and the restoration of her full pension and social security benefits.

 For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law is denied, as is their motion for a new trial based on the erroneous admission of statistical evidence. Defendants' motion for a new trial based on the excessiveness of the jury's verdict is denied on the condition that Plaintiff consent to a remittitur. Finally, Plaintiff's motion for front pay and the restoration of her benefits is granted.

 I. Factual Background

 Plaintiff Joyce Stratton was the Director of the Central Information and Referral Bureau of the New York City Department for the Aging ("DFTA") from 1975 until 1991. In this capacity, Plaintiff managed a staff of up to 35 that provided a wide array of information and services to New York City's elderly citizens. At the time of her dismissal in 1991, Plaintiff was 61 years old. Trial Transcript ("Tr.") at 42, 58, 74, 101, 103.

 In 1990, Defendant Prema Mathai-Davis, who was then 39 years old, was appointed Commissioner of the Department for the Aging. Tr. at 20. Approximately a year after Dr. Mathai-Davis' appointment, on February 22, 1991, Dr. Stratton's employment was terminated. Tr. at 103. At trial, Plaintiff asserted that her dismissal was motivated by age discrimination; specifically, Plaintiff argued that Dr. Mathai-Davis demonstrated a marked preference for staff closer to her own age. Tr. at 664. Defendants dispute that age played any role in the decision to terminate Dr. Stratton's employment. At trial, Dr. Mathai-Davis and other defense witnesses testified that the decision had been dictated by budget cuts which forced them to eliminate 17 positions at the Central Information and Referral Bureau. Tr. at 436, 442, 493.

 II. Legal Standard for Judgment as a Matter of Law or a New Trial

 Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a)(1) sets forth the standard for granting a motion for judgment as a matter of law:

 
If during a trial by jury a party has been fully heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue, the court may determine the issue against that party and may grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against that party with respect to a claim or defense that cannot under the controlling law be maintained or defeated without a favorable finding on that issue (emphasis added).

 Such a motion may only be granted when "there is such a complete absence of evidence supporting the verdict that the jury's findings could only have been the result of sheer surmise and conjecture, or [where there is] such an overwhelming amount of evidence in favor of the movant that reasonable and fair minded [persons] could not arrive at a verdict against [the movant]." Logan v. Bennington College Corp., 72 F.3d 1017, 1022 (2d Cir. 1995) (internal quotation omitted).

 When deciding a motion brought under Rule 50, the Court may not weigh the evidence or assess the credibility of witnesses. Instead, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, giving it the benefit of all legitimate inferences that may be made in its favor. See Samuels v. Air Transport Local 504, 992 F.2d 12, 14-16 (2d Cir. 1993); Banff Ltd. v. Express, Inc. 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19374, *6, 1996 WL 2003, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 3, 1996).

 The standard for granting a motion for a new trial is less restrictive. Such a motion may be granted if the jury's verdict is "seriously erroneous" or constitutes a "miscarriage of justice." See Purnell v. Lord, 952 F.2d 679, 686 (2d Cir. 1992); Katara v. D.E. Jones Commodities, Inc., 835 F.2d 966, 970 (2d Cir. 1987). The Court may find that "a miscarriage of justice" has occurred if the jury's verdict is "against the weight of the evidence," or if the "the trial was not fair to the moving party." See Mallis v. Bankers Trust Co., 717 F.2d 683, 691 (2d Cir. 1983). However, "the grant of a new trial on weight of evidence grounds should be reserved for those occasions where the jury's verdict was egregious." Dunlap-McCuller v. Riese Organization, 980 F.2d 153, 158 (2d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 126 L. Ed. 2d 239, 114 S. Ct. 290 (1993).

 III. Judgment as a Matter of Law

 Defendants assert that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff's claims for disparate treatment and retaliation. Defendants maintain that Plaintiff failed to prove that age was a determinative factor in either their decision to terminate her employment or their decision not to recall or rehire her. Further, Defendants maintain that there is no evidence supporting the jury's finding that Defendants' decision not to rehire plaintiff was motivated by a desire to retaliate against her for filing an age discrimination claim. For the reasons discussed below, neither of Defendants' contentions has merit.

 A. Disparate Treatment Claim

 To state a prima facie case of age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), Plaintiff had to demonstrate that: (1) she was 40 years of age or older; (2) her employment was terminated, or she was not recalled or rehired; (3) she had satisfactorily performed her job; (4) her discharge occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of age discrimination. See Gallo v. Prudential Residential Services, Ltd., 22 F.3d 1219, 1225 (2d Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). Defendants concede that Plaintiff satisfied the first three elements of this ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.