United States District Court, N.D. New York
KLAPROTH LAW PLLC, BRENDAN J. KLAPROTH, ESQ., RANNI LAW FIRM,
JOSEPH J. RANNI, ESQ., BERGSTEIN & ULRICH, LLP, STEPHEN
BERGSTEIN, ESQ. Attorneys for Plaintiffs
WALLENS GOLD & MINEAUX LLP, EARL T. REDDING, ESQ.,
MATTHEW J. KELLY, ESQ. Attorneys for Defendants
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
FREDERICK J. SCULLIAN. JR., SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT
before the Court is Defendant Ulster County's motion for
judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new
trial with regard to Plaintiff Watson's hostile work
environment claims. See Dkt. No. 138.
Watson and three other female corrections officers at the
Ulster County Jail filed this lawsuit on May 11, 2009,
pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
("Title VII"), New York State Human Rights Law
("NYSHRL"), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
January 7, 2011, Defendants filed a motion for summary
judgment, arguing that Plaintiffs' claims failed for
various reasons. See Dkt. No. 29. In a
Memorandum-Decision and Order dated November 21, 2013, the
Court dismissed several of Plaintiffs' claims. However,
the Court determined that a trial was necessary to
adjudicate, among others, Plaintiff Watson's Title VII
hostile work environment claim against Defendant County and
her § 1983 hostile work environment claim against
Defendant County. See generally Dkt. No. 55.
Plaintiffs presented their case-in-chief, Defendants moved
for a directed verdict on several of Plaintiffs' claims,
including Plaintiff Watson's hostile work environment
claims. Defendants' counsel generally argued that
"the proof ha[d] been insufficient to set forth the
prima facie case[.]" See Dkt. No. 137-8 at
602:16-17. The Court reserved its decision on the hostile
work environment claims. The jury then returned a verdict on
August 19, 2014, finding no cause of action for all of
Plaintiffs' remaining claims with the exception of
Plaintiff Watson's Title VII and § 1983 hostile work
environment claims. See Dkt. No. 98. The jury
awarded Plaintiff Watson $200, 000 in compensatory damages
for her Title VII claim and $200, 000 in compensatory damages
for her § 1983 claim. See id.
the Court excused the jury, the Court discussed post-trial
motions with counsel. The Court averred that it would give
the parties two weeks after the date that the trial record
was prepared to file their post-trial motions. See
Dkt. No. 166 at 71. The Court entered judgment on August 20,
2014. See Dkt. No. 102.
Defendant originally filed its motion
for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a
new trial regarding Plaintiff's hostile work environment
claims on November 5, 2014. See Dkt. No. 121.
However, pursuant to Rule 50(b) and Rule 59(b), these motions
had to be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of
judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b), 59(b). The
Court noted that, "[g]enerally, a court may extend the
time to act for good cause; however, Rule 6(b)(2) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure explicitly provides that
'[a] court must not extend the time to
act under Rules 50(b) and (d), 52(b),
59(b), (d), and (e), and 60(b).'"
See Dkt. No. 122 at 2 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(2)
(emphasis added)). Thus, on November 6, 2014, before
Plaintiff responded to Defendant's motion, the Court
denied Defendant's motion as untimely because it was
filed beyond the 28-day window.
same day, November 6, 2014, Defendant filed a letter motion
asking the Court to reconsider its decision to deny its Rule
50/59 motion as untimely. See Dkt. No. 123. For
support, Defendant argued that the Court had previously
granted its request to delay filing post-trial motions until
two-weeks after the parties had received the trial record.
See Id. Further, Defendant's attorney stated
that he had received the trial transcript on October 22,
2014, and filed the motion less than two-weeks after that.
Court denied Defendant's motion for reconsideration.
See Dkt. No. 124. In doing so, the Court reasoned
that "Rule 6(b)(2) renders the deadlines for filing
motions pursuant to Rule 50(b) and Rule 59(b) jurisdictional.
Therefore, the Court lacked the authority to extend those
deadlines." See Id. at 2 (citations omitted).
Thus, "[t]he fact that the Court instructed Defendants
that they had two weeks from the time they received the trial
transcript to file their post trial motions did not change
the fact that, under Rules 50(b) and 59(b), Defendants were
required to file any such motions 'no later than 28
days after the entry of judgment . . . .'" See
Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b)).
appealed this Court's ruling to the Second Circuit.
See Dkt. No. 127. In reversing this Court's
decision, the Second Circuit first explained that "[a]
time limitation is jurisdictional only if it is prescribed by
statute." Legg v. Ulster Cty., 820 F.3d 67, 78
(2d Cir. 2016). However, "procedural rules which have no
statutory analogue, although 'mandatory' in the sense
that a party may insist upon their enforcement, do not affect
the power of the courts and are subject to waiver or
equitable exception." Id. at 78-79 (citation
omitted). The Second Circuit concluded that Rule 6(b)(2) was
not jurisdictional. See Id. at 79 (citations
omitted). Accordingly, the Second Circuit held that,
"even though the district court was without authority to
grant an extension under Rule 6(b)(2), it retained the power
to consider whether the plaintiffs had waived compliance with
the rule or whether an equitable exception applied."
Id. (citation omitted). Thus, the Second Circuit
remanded the case to this Court with instructions to consider
"whether the plaintiffs waived objection to the
court's improper grant of an extension of time or whether
an equitable exception to the prohibition of such extensions
applied on the facts of this case." Id.
reviewing the Second Circuit's decision, this Court held
a conference with counsel and directed the parties to submit
briefs regarding the waiver/equitable exception issue and the
merits of the underlying motion. The parties did so,
see Dkt. Nos. 136, 138; and each filed a reply
brief, see Dkt. Nos. 170, 172.
respect to waiver, the important consideration is
axiomatically whether the opposing party timely objected to
the motion. See Art Attacks Ink, LLC v. MGA Entm't
Inc., 581 F.3d 1138, 1143 (9th Cir. 2009) (stating that
the plaintiff "never objected to the timeliness of [the
defendant's] Rule 50(b) motion for summary judgment
before the district court[; a]ccordingly, [the plaintiff] has
forfeited its untimeliness objection"); see also
Dill v. Gen. Am. Life Ins. Co., 525 F.3d 612, 618 (8th
Cir. 2008) (stating that the timeliness requirements in Rule
50(b) and 6(b) "may be forfeited if they are not timely
raised" (citations omitted)). Therefore, the Court must
consider "whether [Plaintiff] timely raised the
untimeliness of [Defendant]'s Rule 50(b) [and Rule 59]
motion[s]. If [s]he did, [s]he is 'assure[d]
relief.''' Dill, 525 F.3d at 618-19
(quoting Eberhart, 546 U.S. at 19, 126 S.Ct. 403).
On the other hand, if Plaintiff "'wait[ed] too long
to raise the point, ' . . . as [Defendant] asserts, the
defense was forfeited. . . ." Id. (quoting
Kontrick, 540 U.S. at 456, 124 S.Ct. 906); see
also Wilburn v. Robinson, 480 F.3d 1140, 1147 (D.C. Cir.
2007) (stating that "[a] party indisputably forfeits a
timeliness objection based on a claim-processing rule if he
raises the issue after the court has issued a merits
decision"). Indisputably, Plaintiff is objecting to
Defendant's untimely motion for the first time in this
filing. Thus, the Court must determine whether Plaintiff,
having waited until now to object, has waived her objection.
common principle in the above-cited cases is that whether a
party has waived its objection to the timeliness of an
opposing party's motion turns on whether that party has
objected before the court rules on the underlying motion.
See Dill, 525 F.3d at 618; see also Nat'l
Ecological Found. v. Alexander, 496 F.3d 466, 476 (6th
Cir. 2007) (finding that the party forfeited its timeliness
argument because it raised that argument for the first time
on appeal). Similarly, in Advanced Bodycare, the
court held that the defendant had waived its right to object
to an untimely Rule 50/59 motion because the defendant had
failed to do so until after the district court issued a
decision disposing of the motion. See Advanced Bodycare
Sols., LLC v. Thione Int'l, Inc., 615 F.3d 1352,
1359 n.15 (11th Cir. 2010). In this case, the Court dismissed
Defendant's Rule 50 and Rule 59 motion before Plaintiff
objected; thus, it would follow that Plaintiff waived her
right to object to Defendant's untimely
motion. See, e.g, Knox v. Countrywide
Bank, 673 F.App'x 31, 33 (2d Cir. 2016) (summary
order) (finding that the defendant had waived its
untimeliness argument because it did not make any such
this case is in a unique procedural posture. It is unlike
Dill because Plaintiff never had an opportunity to
object in her opposition papers to Defendant's original
motion. It is also unlike Advanced Bodycare because
the Court did not rule on the merits of the motion but rather
dismissed it on timeliness grounds before Plaintiff could
respond. However, based on the circumstances of this case,
the Court finds that Plaintiff constructively waived her
right to object as soon as the Court issued an Order
dismissing the motion (regardless of whether she had a chance
to do so). See e.g., Advanced Bodycare, 615 F.3d at
1359. Accordingly, the Court will consider Defendant's
Defendant's Rule 50 and Rule 59 motions
Standard of review
considering a motion for judgment as a matter of law, a court
"'must draw all reasonable inferences in
favor of the non moving party, and it may not make
credibility determinations or weigh the
evidence.'. . ." Zellner v. Summerlin,
494 F.3d 344, 370 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Reeves v.
Sanderson Plumbing, 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097,
147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000) (emphasis [added])).
"'Credibility determinations, the weighing of the
evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the
facts are jury functions, not those of a judge.'"
Id. (quotation omitted). Moreover, a court
"must disregard all evidence favorable to the moving
party that the jury is not required to believe."
Id. (quotation omitted). In sum, a court may grant a
motion for judgment as a matter of law "'only if it
can conclude that, with credibility assessments made against
the moving party and all inferences drawn against the moving
party, a reasonable juror would have been compelled
to accept the view of the moving party.'"
Id. at 370-71 (quoting Piesco v. Koch, 12
F.3d 332, 343 (2d Cir. 1993) (emphasis added)). Accordingly,
a court must not set aside a judgment unless
"(1) 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
(2) 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 [it]." Advance
Pharm., Inc. v. United States, 391 F.3d 377, 390 (2d
Cir. 2004) (quotation omitted).
Rule 59(a)(1)(A) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
provides that "[t]he court may, on motion, grant a new
trial on all or some of the issues - and to any party - as
follows: (A) after a jury trial, for any reason for which a
new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in
federal court[.]" Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1)(A). As a general
matter, "[a] motion for a new trial should be granted
when, in the opinion of the district court, 'the jury has
reached a seriously erroneous result or . . . the verdict is
a miscarriage of justice.'" Song v. Ives Labs.,
Inc., 957 F.2d 1041, 1047 (2d Cir. 1992) (quotation and
other citations omitted). A court may grant a new trial,
"therefore, when the jury's verdict is against the
weight of the evidence." DLC Mgmt. Corp. v. Town of
Hyde Park, 163 F.3d 124, 133 (2d Cir. 1998) (citations
standards governing a Rule 59 motion for a new trial on the
ground that the verdict was against the weight of the
evidence differs in two important ways from the standards
governing a Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law.
"Unlike judgment as a matter of law, a new trial may be
granted even if there is substantial evidence supporting the
jury's verdict." Id. Additionally, a court
"is free to weigh the evidence . . ., and need not view
it in the light most favorable to the verdict winner."
See Id. (citation omitted). Nonetheless, a court
should only grant a Rule 59 motion when the jury's
verdict is "'egregious."' Id.
(citation omitted). "Accordingly, a court should rarely
disturb a jury's evaluation of a witness's
credibility." Id. (citations omitted).
Hostile work environment -- Title VII and §
Plaintiff's hostile work environment
establish a hostile work environment claim under Title VII
[or § 1983], a plaintiff must produce enough evidence to
show that "the workplace is permeated with
discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult, that is
sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of
the victim's employment and create an abusive working
environment."'" Rivera v. Rochester Genesee
Reg'l Transp. Auth., 743 F.3d 11, 20 (2d Cir. 2014)
(quotation and footnote omitted). In that regard, a plaintiff
must show "both 'objective and subjective elements:
the misconduct shown must be "severe or pervasive enough
to create an objectively hostile or abusive work environment,
" and the victim must also subjectively perceive that
environment to be abusive.'" Feingold v. New
York, 366 F.3d 138, 150 (2d Cir. 2004) (quotation
omitted). Furthermore, when evaluating a hostile work
environment claim, courts "'examin[e] the totality
of the circumstances, including: the frequency of the
discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is
physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive
utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with the
victim's [job] performance.'" Rivera,
743 F.3d at 20 (quoting Hayut v. State Univ. of
N.Y., 352 F.3d 733, 745 (2d Cir. 2003)). "'As a
general rule, incidents must be more than "episodic;
they must be sufficiently continuous and concerted in order
to be deemed pervasive."'" Terry v.
Ashcroft, 336 F.3d 128, 148 (2d Cir. 2003) (quoting
Alfano, 294 F.3d at 374 (quoting Perry, 115
F.3d at 149)).
Terry, the Second ...