United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON PENDING PRETRIAL MOTIONS
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge
Kimberly Vale was admitted to the New Haven Police Academy in
September 2009. She trained at the Academy with other
recruits, including going through a battery of physical and
psychological tests. Although she passed many of these tests,
the Academy's evaluators did not give her a passing grade
on a required race through an obstacle course. She then
resigned rather than be dismissed from the Academy.
has now sued the City of New Haven under the Connecticut Fair
Employment Practices Act (CFEPA), alleging that she was not
permitted to pass the Academy's requirements because of
age-based discrimination. She also brings a claim under Conn.
Gen. Stat. § 31-51q, alleging that she was retaliated
against because officers in the Academy believed she was
responsible for reporting wage violations to state
authorities. A jury has been selected, and evidence is set to
begin on plaintiff's claims on April 18, 2017. After a
pretrial conference, plaintiff and defendant filed a series
of motions in limine, which I will largely grant for
the reasons below.
plaintiff and defendant dispute whether the issue of
plaintiff's damages for back pay should be decided by the
Court or by a jury, and also what relevant evidence should be
submitted. Doc. #183; Doc. #185; Doc. #191. Under federal
law, “a lost wages award-whether in the form of back
pay or front pay-is an equitable remedy, ” and so
“a party is generally not entitled to a jury
determination on the question.” Broadnax v. City of
New Haven, 415 F.3d 265, 271 (2d Cir. 2005) (emphasis
omitted); see also Cohen v. W. Haven Bd. of Police
Comm'rs, 538 F.2d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1980)
(“Backpay is a familiar equitable remedy . . .”).
that her underlying discrimination claim is a claim under
state law, plaintiff argues that her right to a jury
determination of backpay should be decided under state law,
rather than under federal law. I do not agree. The Supreme
Court has ruled that “the right to a jury trial in the
federal courts is to be determined as a matter of federal law
in diversity as well as other actions.” Simler v.
Conner, 372 U.S. 221, 222 (1963) (per curiam).
Although it is true that in a diversity action a federal
court must look to state law to determine applicable
substantive law, “the characterization of that
state-created claim as legal or equitable for purposes of
whether a right to jury trial is indicated must be made by
recourse to federal law.” Id. at 223; see
also Morse v. JetBlue Airways Corp., 2014 WL 2587576, at
*2-*3 (E.D.N.Y. 2014) (federal court not required to have
jury determine issue of backpay under New York
anti-discrimination law despite fact that New York law
requires jury for all claims of money damages).
cites Schoonmaker, et al. v. Lawrence Brunoli, Inc.,
265 Conn. 210 (2003), a case in which a state court jury
decided a lost wages claim. The court in
Schoonmaker, however, did not discuss the issue of
whether a plaintiff is entitled to a jury determination of
lost wages- it was simply a case where a jury did decide such
a claim. 265 Conn. at 233-34. Because backpay is an equitable
remedy and because as a matter of federal law there is no
right to a jury determination of equitable remedies, I will
therefore grant defendant's motion that the Court, rather
than the jury, should determine what backpay (if any) that
plaintiff may be owed.
the issue of backpay also helps to resolve plaintiff's
motion to preclude evidence relating to plaintiff's 2012
application, admission, or dismissal from the Academy. Doc.
#185. Plaintiff seeks to prohibit defendant from submitting
such evidence to the jury or referencing it during opening or
closing statements or examination of witnesses. During
argument on this motion, defendant confirmed that the primary
reason to introduce such evidence would be for the backpay
determination, which, as just decided, will no longer go to
the jury. Plaintiff's motion is therefore granted.
argument, the parties also agreed that punitive damages would
be available under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51q, but that
they would be limited to reasonable attorney's fees.
Because the parties agree on this point, there is no occasion
here for me to consider whether state law imposes this
limitation. The parties further agreed at oral argument that
punitive damages are not available for plaintiff's age
discrimination claim under the Connecticut Fair Employment
Practices Act. They also agreed that reinstatement is an
equitable remedy to be determined by the Court rather than a
jury. Defendant's motion in limine regarding
remedies thus may be granted in its entirety.
also moves to prohibit evidence of adverse information that
appears in plaintiff's application or her qualifications
prior to her acceptance into the Academy in 2009. Doc. #185.
For reasons explained during oral argument and for lack of a
showing of defendant's reliance on such adverse
information, this motion is granted without prejudice to
defendant's ability to proffer evidence of
plaintiff's failure of other physical tests prior to her
training at the Academy.
defendant moves to preclude evidence (Plaintiff's
Exhibits B, C, D, E and G) regarding the performance and test
results of other recruits at the Academy. Doc. #184. Because
the Court does not yet have sufficient factual context to
decide this motion, the motion will be denied without
prejudice to defendant's renewal of its objections at
trial for the reasons discussed on the record during oral
motion regarding remedies, Doc. #183, is GRANTED.
Defendant's motion regarding comparator test results,
Doc. #184, is DENIED without prejudice. Plaintiff's
motion regarding evidence of her 2009 and 2012 academy
admissions, Doc. #185, is GRANTED subject to the conditions
noted above. Plaintiff's ...