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James v. RD America, LLC

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 30, 2019

TYRONDA JAMES, Plaintiff,
v.
RD AMERICA, LLC, d/b/a Restaurant Depot, JETRO HOLDINGS, LLC, d/b/a Restaurant Depot, RESTAURANT DEPOT, LLC, d/b/a Restaurant Depot, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Victor A. Bolden United States District Judge

         In their recently-filed joint trial memorandum, the parties indicate that they intend to present the jury with evidence as to Defendants' tenth affirmative defense, in which Defendants claim that “[t]his Court lacks jurisdiction over this matter as both parties have agreed to resolve any dispute through arbitration.” Answer, dated Nov. 10, 2016, ECF No. 13.

         For the reasons explained below, the Court STRIKES Defendants' demand for a trial by jury on this defense under Rule 39(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as Defendants have not demonstrated that there is any genuine dispute of material fact for which a trial by jury on this defense is warranted.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Familiarity with the facts and prior proceedings, as detailed in the Court's March 5, 2019 Ruling and Order, is assumed. See Ruling and Order, dated Mar. 5, 2019 (“R & O”), ECF No. 62, at 2-12.

         On March 5, 2019, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment. R & O at 1, 33. The Court (1) denied summary judgment on Defendants' arbitration defense because Defendants had failed to show an absence of a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether there was a valid agremeent to arbitrate and whether Ms. James's claims were within its scope, id. at 13-17; (2) granted summary judgment as to Plaintiff's claims of discriminatory firing and retaliation, id. at 20-25, 31-32; and (3) denied summary judgment as to Plaintiff's claim of hostile work environment because there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the use of racial epithets in her workplace was sufficiently severe or pervasive to have materially altered the terms and conditions of her employment, thereby allowing this single claim under Title VII to proceed to trial, id. at 25-31, 33.

         On March 14, 2019, following a telephonic scheduling conference with the parties, the Court set this case down for a jury trial beginning on August 19, 2019, with jury selection to be held on August 5, 2019. Scheduling Order, dated Mar. 14, 2019, ECF No. 65.

         On July 3, 2019, Defendants moved to continue jury selection to August 19, 2019-the day the trial was set to begin-due to a scheduling conflict for Defendants' counsel with an unrelated matter. Motion to Continue Jury Selection, dated Jul. 3, 2019, ECF No. 75.

         On July 5, 2019, the parties filed their joint trial memorandum. Joint Trial Memorandum, dated Jul. 5, 2019 (“JTM”), ECF No. 76.

         On July 8, 2019, the Court noted the parties' failure to file simultaneously motions in limine with their joint trial memorandum, as required by this Court's Chambers Practices, and therefore set a schedule for briefing on motions in limine. Amended Scheduling Order, dated Jul. 8, 2019, ECF No. 77.

         On July 11, 2019, the Court granted Defendants' motion to continue and re-scheduled the jury selection for August 19, 2019, with trial set to begin thereafter. Order, dated Jul. 11, 2019, ECF No. 78; Notice of E-Filed Calendar, dated Jul. 12, 2019, ECF No. 79.

         On July 16, 2019, Defendants moved in limine to preclude Ms. James from introducing any evidence, testimony, or references to a civil action Ms. James has filed, James v. Jetro Holdings, No. NNH-CV-15-6054069-S, currently pending before the Connecticut Superior Court for the Judicial District of New Haven. Defs.' Mot. Defendants argued that the state court action, in which Ms. James seeks damages for Defendants' alleged tortious interference with her business, is wholly irrelevant to the claims before this Court as it “seeks a completely different remedy with different legal theories outside of Title VII.” Id. at 2. Defendants argued that any descriptions or references to the State Court Action therefore are irrelevant. Id. at 1, 3-4. Defendants further argued that “even if such evidence is relevant . . . the evidence is highly prejudicial and outweighs any probative value because it will confuse the issues (hostile work environment v. commercial issues) and mislead the jury (essentially informing the jury that Plaintiff's termination was not for just cause and retaliatory).” Id. at 4.

         On July 22, 2019, Ms. James opposed Defendants' motion in limine, arguing that the request was overbroad because it would “preclude any testimony or evidence that may be relevant to the Hostile Work Environment [claim], but is even slightly connected in some way to the state court action, ” leaving Ms. James “open to random and unpredictable evidentiary objections from the defendants depending on how creative the defendants can be at linking each individual piece of evidence and testimony to the state case.” Objection to Motion In Limine to Preclude Evidence, Testimony or References to Plaintiff's State Case, dated Jul. 22, 2019 (“Pl.'s Opp.”), ECF No. 82.

         On July 24, 2019, the Court held a final pretrial conference with the parties, reserving decision on the motion in limine. Minute Entry, filed Jul. 28, 2019, ECF No. 83. The Court directed the parties to file their proposed voir dire questions and jury instructions by August 2, 2019, and to ...


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