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JOHN AND VINCENT ARDUINI INC. v. NYNEX

January 8, 2001

JOHN AND VINCENT ARDUINI INCORPORATED, D/B/A HERITAGE CLEANING COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
V.
NYNEX AND BELL ATLANTIC CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kahn, District Judge.

DECISION AND ORDER

Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for reconsideration or in the alternative to certify for interlocutory appeal. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion for reconsideration is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part and to certify is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Plaintiff, John and Vincent Arduini, Inc. d/b/a Heritage Cleaning Co. ("Heritage"), and Defendant NYNEX*fn1 entered into a contract in 1987 whereby Plaintiff agreed to provide cleaning and related maintenance services for various buildings in New York State that NYNEX owned. Over the course of the next ten years, Plaintiff expanded its business with NYNEX, procuring numerous cleaning and maintenance contracts throughout New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont. According to Plaintiff, strains began to appear in its business relationship with NYNEX when it was awarded a cleaning contract in the "413 Zone" located in western Massachusetts.

Because the "413 Zone" contained a large Hispanic population, Heritage employed numerous individuals of Hispanic descent to assist it in carrying out its duties under the "413 Zone Contract" with NYNEX. In performing its duties under the "413 Zone Contract," Plaintiff was required to interact with Phillip Boire, the NYNEX property manager in that area. According to Plaintiff, Mr. Boire had a deeply rooted dislike of Hispanics and referred to them, among other things, as "dumb Puerto Ricans" and "spics."

When Mr. Boire learned that a supervisory position within Heritage was available, he recommended that two Caucasian workers receive consideration for the job. Heritage refused to appoint either of these workers, and instead promoted Ramon Arcila, a Heritage employee of Hispanic descent, to the position. Plaintiff contends that when Mr. Boire learned of this promotion he told one of its principals, John Arduini, that it was "his funeral" and proceeded over the following years to falsely accuse Heritage of failing to perform its duties under the "413 Zone Contract" with NYNEX.*fn2

As a result of Mr. Boire's actions, Plaintiff claims that its previously untarnished reputation became sullied and that it was excluded from bidding on additional NYNEX contracts in 1994, 1995, and 1996. Additionally, Plaintiff argues that Mr. Boire's actions caused Defendants to terminate unlawfully Heritage's "413 Zone Contract" one month prior to its expiration and not to renew a preexisting New York cleaning contract upon its expiration. In defense to these, claims, Defendants allege that Plaintiffs under-performance on existing contracts and administrative changes within NYNEX regarding the procurement of contracts were the reasons why it terminated its business relationship with Plaintiff. To further support their argument that racial animosity did not play a role in their decisions regarding Plaintiff, Defendants point out that replacement companies hired to fill Plaintiffs duties in the "413 Zone" contained the same proportion of minority employees as Heritage.

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed this complaint in 1997 alleging that Defendants' actions against it were unlawfully discriminatory, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Plaintiff also alleged that Defendants embarked on a course of malicious and unlawful conduct over the course of their business relationship that was designed to injure its business reputation. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that Defendants defamed and committed a prima facie tort against it in violation of New York State's common law.

In June of 1999, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment arguing, in part, that because Plaintiff was a "for profit" corporation wholly owned by two male Caucasian shareholders, it lacked standing to assert a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Additionally, Defendants argued that Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case on its discrimination, defamation, and prima facie tort claims. In a tersely worded opinion issued on March 30, 2000, this Court concluded that Plaintiff did have standing to assert its discrimination claim against defendant and that it had met its prima facie burden regarding this claim.

The Court also concluded that summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiffs defamation and prima facie tort claims was not warranted but neglected to explain its reasons for this decision. Defendant subsequently moved this Court to reconsider this decision or, in the alternative, to certify the standing issue for interlocutory appeal in April of 2000. It is this current motion that currently sits before the Court.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard for Reconsideration

Motions for reconsideration proceed in the Northern District of New York under Local Rule 7.1(g), unless otherwise governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 60. The "clearly erroneous" standard of review applies to motions for reconsideration. The moving party must "point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked — matters, in other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court." Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995).

Generally, the prevailing rule in the Northern District "recognizes only three possible grounds upon which motions for reconsideration may be granted; they are (1) an intervening change in controlling law, (2) the availability of new evidence not previously available, or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice." In re C-TC 9th Ave. Partnership, 182 B.R. 1, 3 (N.D.N.Y. 1995). Defendants' basis for this motion is that this Court made a clear error of law or needs to correct a manifest injustice because of numerous errors contained in the Court's earlier decision. Although this Court enjoys broad discretion when making a determination to reconsider on this ground, Von Ritter v. Heald, 876 F. Supp. 18, 19 (N.D.N.Y. 1995), it will not disregard the law of the prior case unless "the Court has a `clear conviction of error' with respect to a point of law on which its previous decision was predicated." Fogel v. Chestnutt, 668 F.2d 100, 109 (2d Cir. 1981).

B. Plaintiffs Standing Under 42 U.S.C. § 1981

In order to have standing to assert a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Plaintiff must show that Defendants' alleged intentional discrimination caused injury that the Court can redress via the current suit. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975). Without the sufficiency of each of these three elements of standing, injury, causation, and redressability, the Court is barred from adjudicating the merits of Plaintiffs claim by the "case and controversy requirement" expressed in Article III of the United States Constitution. See id.

The injury component of standing is typically satisfied if a plaintiff can show that it suffered a deprivation that is not hypothetical, conjectural, or speculative. See Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 155, 110 S.Ct. 1717, 109 L.Ed.2d 135 (1990); Fulani v. Bentsen, 35 F.3d 49, 52 (2d Cir. 1994). The injury alleged must be "distinct and palpable." Warth, 422 U.S. at 501, 95 S.Ct. 2197; Nash v. Bowen, 869 F.2d 675, 677 (2d Cir. 1989). Causation is established if a litigant can show that the injury "fairly can be traced to the challenged action." Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 155, 110 S.Ct. 1717, 109 L.Ed.2d 135 (1990). To the extent that an injury is self-inflicted or due to the plaintiffs own fault, the causal chain is broken and standing will not be established. See Petro-Chem Processing, Inc. v. Envtl. Protection Agency, 866 F.2d 433, 438 (D.C.Cir. 1989). Finally, a plaintiff must demonstrate that it will obtain, at a minimum, a probable "benefit from winning [the] suit" in order to meet its burden of showing that a federal court can redress the injury alleged. See Family & Children's Ctr., Inc. v. School City of Mishawaka, 13 F.3d 1052, 1058 (7th Cir. 1994); see also Bennett v. Spear, 520 U.S. 154, 162, 117 S.Ct. 1154, 137 L.Ed.2d 281 (1997).

In addition to these constitutionally required elements of standing, there are other "prudential" elements of standing. See Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church & State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 474-75, 102 S.Ct. 752, 70 L.Ed.2d 700 (1982). The prudential elements of standing are built upon the premise that certain disputes are better left to coordinate branches of government or are not suitable for adjudication in the current proceeding. See Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751, 104 S.Ct. 3315, 82 L.Ed.2d 556 (1984). Thus, courts will decline to exercise jurisdiction when a litigant alleges a generalized grievance more appropriate for resolution by the political branches of government, alleges a claim on behalf of third parties, or alleges a claim that falls outside the "zone of interest" of a particular statute. See id.

There is no dispute that Plaintiff has met the constitutional requirements to assert standing in the instant proceeding. The injuries asserted, premature termination and loss of cleaning contracts, are distinct and palpable. They are not based upon conjecture. Moreover, Plaintiffs allegations, if true, show that the loss of these contracts is directly traceable to the discriminatory pattern of conduct instigated by Mr. Boire. Finally, it is clear that monetary damages can compensate Plaintiff for the alleged loss of these contracts.

What is disputed is whether the prudential elements of standing dictate against this Court adjudicating the merits of Plaintiffs claim. In support of its argument that they do, Defendants point out that Plaintiff is a "for profit" corporation owned by two male Caucasians. Defendants rely upon Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Devopment Corp. to support their argument by pointing to language in the case that states "[a]s a corporation, [Plaintiff] has no racial identity ...


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