United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are: (1) Plaintiff's Renewed Motion for
Judgment as a Matter of Law and Motion for a New Trial on
Back Pay Damages (Doc. No. 267); (2) Plaintiff's Motion
for Leave to File Reply (Doc. No. 281); (3) Plaintiff's
Motion for Liquidated Damages and Pre-judgment Interest (Doc.
No. 269); (4) the Motion for Renewed Judgment [sic] as a
Matter of Law (Doc. No. 275) filed by Highland Graphics, Inc.
and Ron Wall (referred to collectively herein, in the
singular, as “Highland”); and (5) Defendants'
Motion for Leave to File Reply (Doc. No. 287).
initial matter, both motions for leave to file a reply brief
(Doc. Nos. 281, 287) are GRANTED, and the
Clerk is DIRECTED to file separately the
proposed reply briefs attached to the motions. The Court has
considered the proposed replies in ruling on the motions, all
of which are fully briefed and ripe for review.
Plaintiff's Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of
Law and Motion for a New Trial on Back Pay
Chris Bennett renews his motion for judgment in his favor as
a matter of law on Highland's affirmative defense of
failure to mitigate the damages related to his FLSA
retaliation claim, under Rule 50(b) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. He also requests a new trial solely on the
issue of back pay damages under Rule 59(a).
Standard of Review
Court may grant a Rule 50(b) motion for judgment as a matter
of law only if, “when viewing the evidence in a light
most favorable to the non-moving party, giving that party the
benefit of all reasonable inferences, there is no genuine
issue of material fact for the jury, and reasonable minds
could come to but one conclusion in favor of the moving
party.” Rhinehimer v. U.S. Bancorp Investments,
Inc., 787 F.3d 797, 804 (6th Cir. 2015) (quoting
Barnes v. City of Cincinnati, 401 F.3d 729, 736 (6th
Cir. 2005)). “The evidence should not be weighed, and
the credibility of the witnesses should not be questioned.
The judgment of [the] court should not be substituted for
that of the jury.” Id. (quoting Balsley v.
LFP, Inc., 691 F.3d 747, 757 (6th Cir. 2012)). “In
other words, the decision to grant judgment as a matter of
law . . . is appropriate whenever there is a complete absence
of pleading or proof on an issue material to the cause of
action or when no disputed issues of fact exist such that
reasonable minds would not differ.” Jackson v.
FedEx Corp. Servs., 518 F.3d 388, 392 (6th Cir. 2008)
(citation omitted). In ruling on a Rule 50(b) motion, the
Court may allow the verdict to stand, order a new trial, or
direct entry of judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P.
59(a)(1)(A) provides that “[t]he court may, on motion,
grant a new trial on all or some of the issues-and to any
party . . . for any reason for which a new trial has
heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal
court.” “The language of Rule 59(a) has been
interpreted to mean that a new trial is warranted when a jury
has reached a seriously erroneous result as evidenced by: (1)
the verdict being against the weight of the evidence; (2) the
damages being excessive; or (3) the trial being unfair to the
moving party in some fashion, i.e., the proceedings being
influenced by prejudice or bias.” E.E.O.C. v. New
Breed Logistics, 783 F.3d 1057, 1066 (6th Cir. 2015)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Timeliness of Rule 50(b) Motion
may submit a Rule 50(a) motion for judgment as a matter of
law “at any time before the case is submitted to the
jury.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(2). If the court denies
relief on the basis sought, the movant may renew the motion
no later than 28 days after entry of judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P.
50(b). Here, the question is whether Bennett's Rule 50(a)
motion was timely, such that a Rule 50(b) motion was proper
Rule 50(a) motion for judgment in his favor on the
affirmative defense of failure to mitigate was filed on March
23, 2017, after closing arguments but before the jury had
been charged. (See Doc. Nos. 243 (motion), 244
(memorandum).) The motion followed an in-court discussion
regarding Highland's proposal to add additional language
to the mitigation instruction already included in the jury
charge. Highland asserts that the Rule 50(a) motion was not
timely because it was filed after closing arguments rather
than after the close of proof. It also claims that the Rule
50(a) motion did not put it on notice of the arguments raised
in the Rule 50(b) motion, because Bennett “did not
mention any cases in support of the argument promoted . . .
in his post trial Rule 50(b) [motion].” (Doc. No. 279,
at 3-4.) Finally, it contends that, because Bennett did not
“raise the issue at the close of Defendants' proof,
Defendants were not aware (or on notice) that Plaintiff
Bennett was making his own Rule 50(a) motion when filing his
Motion for Judgment as a Matter of law at the same time as
the Defendants' request for an instruction on
self-employment.” (Doc. No. 279, at 4.)
contention that the motion is untimely fails. Prior to 2006,
Rule 50 contained language requiring that a Rule 50(a) motion
be made at the close of all the evidence, see
Fed.R.Civ.P. 50 advisory committee's note on 2006
Amendment, but this requirement was modified to allow a Rule
50(a) motion to be made “at any time before the case is
submitted to the jury.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(2). Highland
cites to no precedent establishing that a Rule 50(a) motion,
under the rule's current language, is untimely if
presented after closing arguments.
other arguments are likewise without merit. Bennett filed a
written motion, docketed in the Court's electronic filing
system, styled, “Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law
as to Defendants' Defense that Plaintiff Failed to
Mitigate His Damages.” (Doc. No. 243.) The first line
of the motion specified that it was brought pursuant to Rule
50(a). The Certificate of Service serves as proof that it was
served electronically on defense counsel on the day of its
filing, March 23, 2017. (Doc. No. 243, at 3.) The Rule 50(a)
motion cross references the contemporaneously filed brief.
(Id.) In the brief, Bennett raises the same
arguments and cites to most of the same cases referenced in
his current Rule 50(b) motion. (See Doc. No. 244.)
In short, it is clear that the timely Rule 50(a) motion put
Highland on notice of the issue raised in the Rule 50(b)
motion and that the Rule 50(b) motion is simply a renewal of
an argument raised in the Rule 50(a) motion.
argues now, as he did in his initial Rule 50(a) motion, that
he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law in his favor on
Highland's affirmative defense of failure to mitigate
damages, because Highland did not introduce any evidence from
which the jury could conclude that comparable employment was
available to Plaintiff after his retaliatory termination. He
contends that, as a result, he is entitled to a new trial on
the issue of damages. Highland argues in response that the
$5, 000 awarded to Bennett by the jury is reasonable, because
the jury evidently concluded that Bennett removed himself
from the job market by going into business for himself
immediately following his departure from Highland and that a
new trial is not warranted. (Doc. No. 278, at 1, 2.)
for violation of the anti-retaliation provisions of the FLSA
are controlled by 29 U.S.C. § ...