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Morse v. Jetblue Airways Corporation

United States District Court, E.D. New York

June 9, 2014

EMILIE MORSE, Plaintiff,
v.
JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORPORATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

KIYO A. MATSUMOTO, District Judge.

On November 19, 2009, plaintiff Emilie Morse ("Morse" or "plaintiff") filed the instant action, alleging that defendant JetBlue Airways Corporation ("JetBlue" or "defendant") wrongfully terminated her employment on the basis of her disability and failed to provide a reasonable accommodation for her disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. ("ADA"); New York State Human Rights Law §§ 290 et seq. ("NYSHRL"); and New York City Human Rights Law §§ 8-101 et seq. ("NYCHRL"). (Compl., ECF No. 1.) On June 5, 2012, defendant moved for summary judgment on a number of grounds. (ECF No. 70.) In a Memorandum and Order filed on March 31, 2013, the undersigned granted the motion in part and denied it in part (hereinafter "Mem. & Order, " ECF No. 85). Specifically, the court found issues of fact remain for trial as to plaintiff's reasonable accommodation and discriminatory discharge claims under the ADA that accrued after January 20, 2006, and her NYSHRL and NYCHRL claims.[1] (Mem. & Order at 73-74.)

Presently before the court are motions in limine by both parties. Plaintiff moves to exclude at trial legal and factual contentions that plaintiff may not recover economic damages for the period she was receiving disability benefits. (Pl. Mot., ECF No. 93; Pl. Mem., ECF No 90; Pl. Reply, ECF No. 95.) Defendant seeks to preclude plaintiff from seeking back pay or front pay damages at trial. (Def. Mot., ECF No. 91; Def. Mem., ECF No. 92.) For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's motion is denied, and defendant's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The underlying facts of this action are set out at length in the court's March 31, 2013 Memorandum and Order. Familiarity with these facts is assumed and only those facts central to the instant motion are recounted here.

Between 2003 and 2006, plaintiff worked as an Inflight Supervisor at JetBlue. (Mem. & Order at 2.) The position expectations for an Inflight Supervisor included flying onboard aircrafts and being qualified as a flight attendant. (Mem. & Order at 4.) Around December 2004, plaintiff's doctor advised plaintiff that she was unable to fly, and upon plaintiff's request, her then-manager and supervisor at JetBlue informally relieved her of her flying requirements. (Mem. & Order at 8.)

In January 2005, plaintiff stopped flying altogether while continuing to perform all other functions of her position. (Mem. & Order at 9.) On June 24, 2005, plaintiff's new manager informed plaintiff that she was failing to meet the minimum qualifications of an Inflight Supervisor. (Mem. & Order at 10.) Plaintiff requested accommodation in the form of permission to continue working as an Inflight Supervisor without flying duties, which was denied. (Mem. & Order at 12.) On July 7, 2005, plaintiff took a short-term disability ("STD") leave of absence. (Mem. & Order at 12.)

In January 2006, plaintiff began receiving Long Term Disability ("LTD") benefits from First Unum Life Insurance Company. (Def. Mem. at 2.) Pursuant to JetBlue's LTD benefit guidelines, in order to receive LTD benefits for the first twenty-four months of a disability, a crew-member must be "completely unable, because of illness or injury, to perform every duty related to his or her job." (Mem. & Order at 20.) After the first twenty-four months, crewmembers must be "unable to work in any occupation for which he or she is reasonably qualified through training, education, or experience" in order to continue receiving LTD benefits. (Mem. & Order at 20.) Unum similarly permits the receipt of LTD benefits after twenty-four months only if an individual is "unable to perform the duties of any gainful occupation for which [she is] reasonably fitted by education, training or experience." (Mem. & Order at 20-21 (quoting Unum's definition of disability).)

On July 12, 2006, defendant terminated plaintiff's employment because plaintiff did not return to work within the time period specified by JetBlue's administrative termination policy. (Mem. & Order at 12-13, 16 n.9.) On July 16, 2007, following her termination, plaintiff filed an application with the Social Security Administration ("SSA") for Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") benefits. (Mem. & Order at 21.) In this application, plaintiff stated that she "became unable to work because of [her] disabling condition on July 8, 2005." (Mem. & Order at 21.) The SSA determined that plaintiff was disabled as of July 8, 2005, and began paying her disability benefits based on that starting date. (Mem. & Order at 21.) Plaintiff continues to receive SSDI benefits to this day. (Pl. Mem. at 2.)

DISCUSSION

The parties disagree about whether plaintiff's receipt of SSDI and LTD benefits disqualifies her from back or front pay awards at trial. For the reasons set forth below, the court finds that plaintiff's receipt of SSDI benefits from July 8, 2005 and LTD benefits from January 2006 bars her from seeking front or back pay damages at trial.[2]

I. Motion in Limine Standard

The purpose of a motion in limine is to allow the trial court to rule in advance of trial on the admissibility and relevance of certain forecasted evidence. See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 40 n.2 (1984); Palmieri v. Defaria, 88 F.3d 136, 141 (2d Cir. 1996); Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. v. L.E. Myers Co. Grp., 937 F.Supp. 276, 283 (S.D.N.Y. 1996). "Evidence should be excluded on a motion in limine only when the evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds." United States v. Paredes, 176 F.Supp.2d 179, 181 (S.D.N.Y. 2001). Further, the court's ruling regarding a ...


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