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Russ v. Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

June 12, 2017

JOANNE P. RUSS, Plaintiff,
v.
MEMPHIS LIGHT, GAS AND WATER DIVISION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          SAMUEL H. MAYS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division's (“MLGW”) November 8, 2016 Motion for Attorney's Fees (the “Motion”). (ECF No. 158 at 2924.[1]) Plaintiff Joanne Russ responded on February 13, 2017. (ECF No. 177 at 4550.) MLGW replied on March 6, 2017. (ECF No. 181 at 4569.)

         For the following reasons, the Motion is DENIED.

         I. Background

         Russ filed this action against MLGW alleging discrimination and retaliation and seeking relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., as amended by the ADA Amendment Act of 2008 (collectively, the “ADA”); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e; and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[2] (ECF No. 1 at 1.)

         MLGW moved to strike several paragraphs in the Complaint under Rule 12(f), contending that the Complaint alleged “only” a single count, a violation of the ADA “by discriminating and retaliating against [Russ] based upon her alleged disability or perceived disability.”[3] (ECF No. 24 at 79-80; see also ECF No. 17 at 51-52.) MLGW argued that the allegations in those paragraphs were “(1) time-barred . . .; (2) new and inconsistent with [Russ's EEOC] Charge; and/or (3) factually unrelated to Plaintiff's ADA cause of action.” (ECF No. 24 at 79.)

         MLGW also filed a “Partial Motion to Dismiss” under Rule 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 31 at 109.) Although MLGW contended that the Complaint included only “one general cause of action: alleged violations of the [ADA], ” it asked that, “[t]o the extent [certain] allegations [in the Complaint] could be construed to support or constitute discrete and separate claims under the umbrella of Plaintiff's ADA cause of action . . . these claims should be formally dismissed for failure to state a claim.” (Id. at 110.) MLGW asked the Court “to dismiss with prejudice all discrete and separate claims contained in the Complaint that [were] (1) time-barred, having occurred prior to April 17, 2013; (2) not included in the Charge and alleged to have occurred prior to filing the Charge; (3) not based on disability discrimination; and (4) based on retaliatory acts that allegedly occurred before Plaintiff made her accommodation request.” (Id.)

         The Court entered an order addressing MLGW's motions. (ECF No. 39 at 174.) Addressing the partial motion to dismiss, the Court explained:

MLGW's Partial Motion to Dismiss repeats the arguments made in its . . . Motion to Strike. MLGW seeks to strike or dismiss paragraphs 6-17, 19-23, and 29 of the . . . Complaint. MLGW argues that the allegations in those paragraphs are immaterial because the events alleged occurred before Russ'[s] disability or are not relevant to proving discrimination or retaliation under the ADA. MLGW's Partial Motion to Dismiss does not challenge either of Russ'[s] theories of recovery, discrimination or retaliation.

(Id. at 177 (citations omitted).) The Court construed MLGW's partial motion to dismiss as a motion to strike. (Id.)

         Addressing the motions to strike, the Court found that “events in the challenged paragraphs, beginning with the start of [Russ's] employment at MLGW and leading up to the filing of her September 2013 internal charge and October 2013 request for accommodation, provide background information for Russ'[s] timely claims.” (Id. at 180.) The Court also found that those events were “material . . . to show that MLGW treated [Russ] differently after she became disabled” and “material . . . to show that MLGW had a discriminatory motive.” (Id. at 181.) The Court rejected MLGW's argument that, if the challenged paragraphs in the Complaint were not stricken, MLGW would be required to expend “considerable time and financial resources” to engage in discovery related to, and defend itself against, time-barred and nontriable allegations. (Id. at 181-82.) The Court explained:

The inclusion of the challenged allegations will not significantly prejudice MLGW. MLGW has ample incentive and opportunity to explore these matters in discovery. Because the alleged events may become relevant to proving or disproving a discriminatory motive, MLGW would have the same incentive to explore the challenged allegations in discovery even if they were not included in the . . . Complaint.

(Id. at 182.) The Court denied MLGW's motions. (Id.)

         MLGW subsequently moved for summary judgment. (ECF No. 81 at 316.) The Court entered an order granting in part and denying in part the motion. (ECF No. 111 at 1607.) The Court granted the motion on all claims for retaliation under the ADA and Title VII, the claim for hostile work environment under the ADA, and the claim for failure to accommodate under the ADA based on MLGW's denial of Russ's request for additional staff and a 9:30 a.m. start time. (Id. at 1640.) The Court denied the summary judgment motion on Russ's claim for failure to accommodate under the ADA based on MLGW's denial of Russ's request for a 40-hour work week and her claim for constructive discharge. (Id.) The Court did not address the claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on Russ's prior representations that she was not proceeding on that claim. (Id. at 1608.)

         Russ's remaining claims proceeded to a seven-day jury trial. (ECF No. 139.) At the close of Russ's proof, MLGW moved for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50. (ECF No. 143.) The Court deferred ruling on the motion. (Id.) At the close of all proof, MLGW renewed its motion for judgment as a matter of law. (ECF No. 146.) The Court again deferred ruling on the motion and submitted the case to the jury. (Id.) The jury returned its verdict in favor of MLGW and against Russ ...


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