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Barham v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 29, 2018




         On December 21, 2017, following a jury trial, this Court issued judgment in favor of Michael Barham (“Plaintiff”) against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores East, LP (“Defendants” or collectively “Walmart”). The parties have filed multiple requests for reconsideration of various parts of the judgment. See ECF Nos. 670, 675, 676, 677, 684, and 686.

         For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion, ECF No. 684, and Plaintiff's motions, ECF No. 675, 676, 677, 684, and 686 are DENIED in their entirety. Plaintiff's motion to reconsider, ECF No. 670, is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


         This case arises out of employment discrimination claims brought by Michael Barham, Kim Hannah, and Tom Irving against Wal-Mart. The Court assumes the parties' familiarity with the facts and procedural posture of this long-pending case, and summarizes this history only to the extent necessary to address these pending motions.

         The Court dismissed all of Mr. Irving's claims at the summary judgment stage. See Summ. J. Ruling, ECF No. 255. Two separate jury trials were then held as to Mr. Barham's claims and Ms. Hannah's claims. See Minute Entries, ECF Nos. 427, 552. At the conclusion of the jury trial as to Mr. Barham's retaliation and discrimination claims under Title VII, the jury entered a verdict of $550, 000 in compensatory damages and $5, 000, 000 in punitive damages against Walmart for retaliation in violation of Title VII. Jury Verdict, ECF No. 430. Following motions for remittitur, the Court subsequently reduced those awards to $125, 000 and $175, 000 respectively. See Memorandum and Ruling, ECF No. 618.

         As to Ms. Hannah's claim, after the presentation of her case, the Court granted Walmart's motion for judgment as a matter of law and dismissed Ms. Hannah's claim under Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Minute Entry, ECF No. 552.

         Mr. Barham then moved for attorney's fees and costs, which the Court granted on December 18, 2017. See Ruling and Order on Attorney's Fees and Costs (“Fees Ruling”), ECF No. 666. The Court also awarded Plaintiff $15, 645.27 in pre-judgment interest. Order on Pre-Judgment Interest, ECF No. 668. Additionally, the Court issued an order sanctioning Ms. Peters-Hamlin, Mr. Barham's counsel, because she had filed a premature appeal. See Order Regarding Sanctions (“Sanctions Ruling”), ECF No. 667. The judgment issued on December 21, 2017. See Judgment, ECF No. 669. It stated that:

It is therefore: ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED that judgment is entered for the plaintiff Michael Barham, against defendants, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. as follows:
Compensatory damages: $125, 000 Punitive damages: $175, 000 Economic damages (back pay): $238, 678 Pre-judgment interest (on back pay): $15, 645.27 Reinstatement

Id. at 2.

         Both parties have now moved for reconsideration or to alter the judgment. Mr. Barham has filed multiple motions requesting reconsideration of the sanctions order. See Pl. Mots. (“Pl. Fee. Mot.”), ECF Nos. 675, 676, 677; Pl. Mem. in Support (“Pl. Sanctions Mem.”), ECF No. 675-1. He also moves for reconsideration of the Court's ruling on attorney's fees, back pay, and prejudgment interest, Pl. Mot. for Reconsideration (“Pl. Back Pay Mot.”), ECF No. 670; Pl. Mem. in Support (“Pl. Back Pay Mem.”), ECF No. 670-1, and the award of compensatory damages, Pl. Mot. to Reconsider (“Pl. Damages Mot.”), ECF No. 686; Pl. Mem. in Support (“Pl. Damages Mot.”), ECF No. 686-1. Walmart has moved for reconsideration or clarification of several aspects of the judgment: the award of back pay, the sanction order, the order requiring reinstatement, and the award of attorney's fees and costs. See Def. Mot., ECF No. 684; Def. Mem. in Support (“Def. Mem.”), ECF No. 684-1.


         Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that party may move to “alter or amend a judgment” no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment. Rule 60 of the Federal Rules also allows modification of a judgment in limited circumstances. A court may “correct a clerical mistake or a mistake arising from oversight or omission[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(a). Additionally, “the court may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding” for several reasons, including “mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect, ” newly discovered evidence, or “any other reason that justifies relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b).

         “The standard for granting [a motion for reconsideration] is strict, and reconsideration will generally be denied unless the moving party can 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). “The major grounds justifying reconsideration are an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” Virgin Atlantic Airways, Ltd. v. Nat'l Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245, 1255 (2d Cir. 1992) (internal citations omitted). A motion for reconsideration generally does not allow the moving party to revisit arguments that have already been presented before the court. See Shrader, 70 F.3d at 257 (“a motion for reconsideration should not be granted where the moving party seeks solely to relitigate an issue already decided.”).


         On December 21, 2017, following a jury trial and economic damages hearing, judgment was entered in this long-running case. See Judgment, ECF No. 669. The Court ordered Walmart to pay Mr. Barham $125, 000 in compensatory damages, $175, 000 in punitive damages, $238, 678 in back pay, and $15, 675.27 in pre-judgment interest, and to reinstate him to the position he likely would have held had Walmart not retaliated against him. Id. The Court also awarded attorney's fees and costs.

         Both parties now move for reconsideration on several aspects of the judgment. The majority of both parties' arguments merely seek to re-litigate issues that were already vigorously contested throughout this case and on which the Court had already ruled. While some of these issues may be appropriate for appeal, “[i]t is well-settled that Rule 59 is not a vehicle for relitigating old issues, presenting the case under new theories, securing a rehearing on the merits, or otherwise taking a ‘second bite at the apple'. . . .” Analytical Surveys, Inc. v. Tonga Partners, L.P., 684 F.3d 36, 52 (2d Cir. 2012), as amended (July 13, 2012) (quoting Sequa Corp. v. GBJ Corp., 156 F.3d 136, 144 (2d Cir. 1998)).

         The motions therefore are denied, with the exception of one of Mr. Barham's motions, ECF No. 670, with respect to back pay and pre-judgment interest. The Court will update the back pay and pre-judgment interest amounts to include compensation from October 27, 2017, through the date of judgment.

         A. Retaliatory Rehire

         Mr. Barham moves for reconsideration under Rule 60 - or, “alternatively” Rule 59(e) - of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Pl. Mot. to Reconsider and Am. Judgment (“Pl. Damages Mot.”), ECF No. 686; Mem. in Support (“Pl. Damages Mem.”), ECF No. 686-1. Mr. Barham claims that three 2010 positions were never dismissed from the case, and the Court therefore erred because it calculated damages beginning in February 2011. Pl. Damages Mem. at 3. Alternatively, he argues that the Court should have instructed the jury it could make findings regarding the three 2010 applications for rehire. Id. at 5. Finally, Mr. Barham argues that if the three 2010 applications were excluded, he is entitled to a new trial on these claims. Id.

         Walmart argue that reconsideration is inappropriate with respect to the 2010 positions. Def. Opp. to Pl. Mot. to Reconsider (“Def. Damages Opp.”), ECF No. 689. They note that the Court limited Mr. Barham's retaliatory failure to rehire claim to only one position and that Wal-Mart “was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff's claims that he was not hired for other positions because the hiring decisions were not sufficiently temporally proximate in time to Plaintiffs alleged protected activity.” Id. at 2. Additionally, Walmart argues that “Plaintiff's argument that the jury charge was not limited to the Waterford MAPM[1] position filled in February 2011 is also categorically false.” Id. Ultimately, then, Walmart argues that the “Plaintiff's Motion is nothing more than a regurgitation of the same failing arguments that he and his counsel have made on several occasions” and “blatantly misrepresent the record in an apparent attempt to mislead this Court.” Id. at 7.

         A motion for reconsideration allows a party to seek error correction; it does not permit a party to re-write history. In partially reconsidering the motion for summary judgment, the Court concluded that, with respect to Mr. Barham, the “only remaining” claim was “Barham's retaliatory failure to rehire claim based on the position listed at paragraph a on page 6” of Walmart's memorandum in further support of its motion for reconsideration, ECF No. 291.

         The Court then returned to the issue at the charge conference. See Transcript at 1568, ECF No. 568. At the conference, the Court noted that language would then be included that limited the Count III retaliation claim to “an open MAPM position in Waterford, Connecticut, in 2011, in retaliation for complaining about race discrimination.” Id. Counsel for Mr. Barham objected, and the Court responded that “my previous summary judgment ruling ...

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