The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schwartz, District Judge.
By Order dated June 14, 2001, the Court granted summary
judgment to IBM on all of plaintiffs claims against the company.
The Court also granted summary judgment to plaintiff with
respect to his claim against Choicepoint under
15 U.S.C. § 1681b(b)(1)(A), finding that Choicepoint had failed to obtain
the required certification from IBM that the information about
plaintiff that was provided by Choicepoint would not be used for
any illegal purpose. See Obabueki v. International Business
Machines, 145 F. Supp.2d 371, 394-96 (S.D.N.Y. 2001).
On January 25, 2002, following a three-day trial, a jury
returned a verdict against Choicepoint. The jury found that
Choicepoint had violated 15 U.S.C. § 1681e, 1681k by
negligently failing to maintain required procedures designed to
ensure the completeness and accuracy of its reports. The jury
also found that Choicepoint's negligence caused plaintiff to
sustain damages in the amount of $450,000.
Currently before the Court are: (i) plaintiffs motion for an
order granting attorney's fees and costs of the litigation; and
(ii) Choicepoint's motion for judgment as a matter of law
pursuant to Rule 50(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
or, in the alternative, for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59. For
the reasons set forth below, Choicepoint's motion for judgment
as a matter of law is granted. Plaintiffs motion for attorney's
fees and costs is denied as moot.
The following facts were presented at trial. On August 31,
1995, plaintiff pleaded nolo contendere in a municipal court
in Santa Clara County, California, to a misdemeanor charge of
committing fraud in obtaining public assistance. (Trial
Transcript ("Tr.") at 9, 19). On January 27, 1997, plaintiffs
conviction was set aside and dismissed by an order pursuant to
California Penal Code § 1204.3. (Tr. at 9; Plaintiffs Exhibit
("Pl. Exh.") 3). The dismissal order stated that although
plaintiff's conviction was set aside, he was not relieved of any
"obligation to disclose the above referenced conviction in
response to any direct question contained in any questionnaire
or application for public office or for licensure by any State
or local agency" (Pl. Exh. 3; see also Tr. at 339).
In September 1999, plaintiff applied for a job as a marketing
manager with IBM. (Tr. at 9). He was interviewed by Olwyn
Spencer, who at the time was IBM's Program Director for
Application Development Market Management. (Id. at 208, 376).
In a letter dated September 27, 1999, IBM offered plaintiff the
marketing manager position, though the offer was contingent upon
the completion of the company's "pre-employment process," which
included drug screening and verification of plaintiffs
application materials. (Defendants' Exhibit ("Def. Exh.") 10).
As part of this pre-employment process, plaintiff filled out a
form called a Security Data Sheet ("SDS"). (Tr. at 150-51; Pl.
Exh. 10). The first question on the SDS asked plaintiff whether
he had "been convicted of or pleaded guilty or `no contest' to a
crime or other offense" in the seven years prior to filling out
the questionnaire. (Tr. at 151; Pl. Exh. 10). However, the line
above Question 1 on the SDS stated that "arrests without
convictions, [and] convictions or incarcerations for which a
record has been sealed or expunged" need not be included as part
of plaintiffs answers to the questions on the SDS. (Pl. Exh.
Plaintiff was under the impression that the January 1997
dismissal order expunged his 1995 conviction, and as a result he
answered "No" to the first question on the SDS. (Tr. 196-97; Pl.
Choicepoint, a consumer reporting agency, was retained by IBM
to perform a background check on plaintiff. (Tr. at 10.). On
September 28, 1999, an individual working for Inquest, one of
Choicepoint's independent contractors, went to the Santa Clara
County courthouse in California to check if plaintiff had any
criminal convictions. (Id.) On October 5, 1999, IBM received a
report from Choicepoint that contained information about
plaintiffs 1995 conviction but did not mention the 1997
dismissal order. (Id.; Pl. Exh. 16).*fn1 Later that day
plaintiff received a call from Kathy Brown, an IBM account
manager. (Tr. at 209). Brown told plaintiff that the background
check had revealed the 1995 conviction, and she asked plaintiff
for an explanation. (Id. at 209-10). Plaintiff told Brown
about the 1997 order and faxed a copy of that order to Brown at
her request. (Id. at 210). Brown showed the 1997 order, along
with the Choicepoint report, to Dick Carson and Eric Ketzel,
both of whom worked in the human resources department of IBM.
(Id. at 336, 338, 349). Carson and Ketzel both concluded,
after looking at both the Choicepoint report and the 1997
dismissal order, that plaintiff had lied in his response to the
first question on the SDS. (Id.) Ketzel discussed this
conclusion with Olwyn Spencer, the department manager who had
interviewed Obabueki. (Id. at 382, 387). Spencer, who was
ultimately responsible for deciding whether plaintiff should be
hired, agreed with Ketzel, and as a result she decided to
withdraw the offer of employment that had previously been made
to plaintiff. (Id. at 379). Kathy Brown called plaintiff on
October 14, 1999, to tell him that IBM planned to withdraw the
offer. (Id. at 214). Five days later plaintiff received a
letter from the company confirming that the job offer had been
withdrawn. (Id. at 158-59, 217).
After plaintiff had been informed that his job offer would be
withdrawn, he contacted Choicepoint to find out whether the 1997
dismissal order had been included in the report that Choicepoint
provided to IBM. (Id. at 158, 214-16). Plaintiff informed a
Choicepoint employee via telephone that his 1995 conviction had
been dismissed, and he faxed a copy of the 1997 order to
Choicepoint. (Id.). Choicepoint told plaintiff that it would
investigate his case and also informed plaintiff that although
the FCRA provided that the company had 30 days to address
plaintiffs contention that a mistake had been made, Choicepoint
would try to respond to plaintiffs inquiry in less time. (Id.
at 216). Choicepoint then asked Inquest, its contractor in
California, to obtain a copy of plaintiffs entire case file from
the Santa Clara County courthouse. (Id. at 90). After viewing
the entire file, Choicepoint sent a revised report to IBM on
October 21, 1999. (Id. at 92; Pl. Exh. 17). This revised
report stated that plaintiffs criminal record was "clear," and
made no mention of either the 1995 conviction or the 1997
dismissal order. (Pl. Exh. 17). Plaintiff received a copy of the
revised report on October 24, 1999, and faxed a copy of that
report to IBM that same day. (Tr. at 163). Plaintiff spoke with
Shelbi McCoy, an employee in IBM's human
resources department, about the second report, and was told by
McCoy that the company would "redo the investigation and get
back" to plaintiff. (Id.) Plaintiff also contacted several
other IBM employees in late October and early November of 1999
to find out if the company had reconsidered hiring him based on
the revised Choicepoint report. (Tr. at 222-24). However,
despite the existence of the revised report, IBM did not
re-offer plaintiff the marketing manager position.
Courts may grant judgment as a matter of law against a party
when there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a
reasonable jury to find for that party on a particular issue,
and such judgment may be granted even after a jury has returned
a verdict. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a),(b). In ruling on a motion for
judgment as a matter of law, trial courts are required to
consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmovant and to give that party the benefit of all reasonable
inferences that the jury might have drawn in his favor from the
evidence. See Tolbert v. Queens College, 242 F.3d 58, 70 (2d
Cir. 2001). The Court cannot assess the weight of conflicting
evidence, pass on the credibility of the witnesses, or
substitute its judgment for that of the jury. Smith v.
Lightning Bolt Productions, Inc., 861 F.2d 363, 367 (2d Cir.
1988) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Kim v.
Hurston, 182 F.3d 113, 117 (2d Cir. 1999); Piesco v. Koch,
12 F.3d 332, 343 (2d Cir. 1993). In making its evaluation, the
Court should "review all of the evidence in the record," Reeves
v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120
S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000), but it must disregard all
evidence favorable to the moving party that the jury is not
required to believe. That is, the Court should give credence to
the evidence favoring the nonmovant as well as that evidence
supporting the moving party that is uncontradicted and
unimpeached, at least to the extent that that evidence comes
from disinterested witnesses. Id. (internal quotation marks
Choicepoint argues that it is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law because none of the evidence produced at trial indicated
that IBM withdrew plaintiffs job offer because of the
incompleteness of the initial Choicpoint report. Rather,
Choicepoint argues, the evidence clearly showed that after
reviewing both the initial Choicepoint report and the 1997
dismissal order that plaintiff faxed to IBM on October 5, 1999,
IBM concluded that plaintiff had lied on the SDS, and then
decided to withdraw the job offer based on that conclusion.
Choicepoint maintains that the plaintiff's provision of the 1997
order to IBM cured the inaccuracy of the initial report and thus
broke the chain of causation between Choicepoint's negligent
failure to comply with the FCRA and plaintiffs injury (i.e., his
loss of the IBM job offer). Choicepoint also ...