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Hardy v. The Hershey Company

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

September 26, 2019

TRACIE HARDY, Plaintiff,
v.
THE HERSHEY COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          MARK S. NORRIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation on Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment dated June 20, 2019 (“Report”). (ECF No. 36.) The Report recommends that Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment be granted and that Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment be denied. (Id. at PageID 243.) Plaintiff filed objections to the report on June 28, 2019. (ECF No. 37.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court ADOPTS the Report. Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         As set forth in the Report, Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112-12117, as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (as amended, the “ADA”). Plaintiff alleged that Defendant failed to accommodate her disability and retaliated against her in violation of the ADA. Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on December 9, 2019. The EEOC Charge alleged discrimination on the basis of disability. The EEOC Charge provided September 30, 2016 as the date discrimination began and indicated the discrimination was continuing on the date the EEOC Charge was filed. The EEOC issued Plaintiff a Right to Sue letter on January 8, 2018.

         Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on February 4, 2019. (ECF No. 22.) In its motion, Defendant argues it is entitled to summary judgment based on a settlement agreement it entered into with Plaintiff (“Settlement Agreement”) in which Plaintiff released Defendant from liability for the claims set forth in Plaintiff’s complaint. (Id. at PageID 109–11.) Plaintiff responded on February 15, 2019. (ECF No. 28.) In her response, Plaintiff alleges many of the same claims set forth in her complaint, and she asserts that her claim is not covered by the release language in the Settlement Agreement. (Id. at PageID 158.) Plaintiff further states she “should be able to recover damages beyond normal workers’ compensation benefits.” (Id. at PageID 158.)

         Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on March 18, 2019. (ECF No. 34.) Plaintiff’s motion reiterates the claims set forth in her complaint and the arguments set forth in her response to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.

         The Magistrate Judge found that “the sole issue presented in the cross-motions for summary judgment [was] whether the Settlement Agreement entered into between Plaintiff and [Defendant] constitutes a release of liability for the claims raised in the instant action.” (ECF No. 36 at PageID 249–50.) After analyzing the language of the Settlement Agreement, the Magistrate Judge recommended finding that the language of the Settlement Agreement did apply to Plaintiff’s claims in this matter, and therefore, the Magistrate Judge further recommended that Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgement be granted and Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment be denied.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Congress enacted 28 U.S.C. § 636 to relieve the burden on the federal judiciary by permitting the assignment of district court duties to magistrate judges. See United States v. Curtis, 237 F.3d 598, 602 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Gomez v. United States, 490 U.S. 858, 869–70 (1989)); see also Baker v. Peterson, 67 F. App’x 308, 310 (6th Cir. 2003). For dispositive matters, “[t]he district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge’s disposition that has been properly objected to.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3); 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1). After reviewing the evidence, the court is free to accept, reject, or modify the magistrate judge’s proposed findings or recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The district court is not required to review-under a de novo or any other standard-those aspects of the report and recommendation to which no objection is made. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). The district court should adopt the magistrate judge’s findings and rulings to which no specific objection is filed. See Id . at 151.

         Objections to any part of a magistrate judge's disposition “must be clear enough to enable the district court to discern those issues that are dispositive and contentious.” Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995); see also Arn, 474 U.S. at 147 (stating that the purpose of the rule is to “focus attention on those issues . . . that are at the heart of the parties' dispute.”). Each objection to the magistrate judge's recommendation should include how the analysis is wrong, why it was wrong, and how de novo review will obtain a different result on that particular issue. See Howard v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991).

         A general objection, or one that merely restates the arguments previously presented and addressed by the magistrate judge, does not sufficiently identify alleged errors in the report and recommendation. Id. When an objection reiterates the arguments presented to the magistrate judge, the report and recommendation should be reviewed for clear error. Verdone v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 16-CV-14178, 2018 WL 1516918, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 28, 2018) (citing Ramirez v. United States, 898 F.Supp.2d 659, 663 (S.D.N.Y. 2012)); Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. Dolgencorp, LLC, 277 F.Supp. 3d 932, 965 (E.D. Tenn. 2017).

         DISCUSSION

         On June 28, 2019, Plaintiff filed “Plaintiff’s Appeal of Granted Summary Judgement for Defendants” (ECF No. 37), which this Court construes as objections to the Report. Many of Plaintiff’s objections are reiterations of the claims in her complaint, the arguments in her response to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, and the arguments in her Motion for Summary Judgment. However, Plaintiff makes two objections that differ from the claims and arguments she has previously asserted, both of which go to the validity or enforcement of the Settlement Agreement. First, Plaintiff asserts that the Settlement Agreement is not binding because her signature was not notarized; and second, Plaintiff asserts that the Settlement Agreement is not enforceable because it was not signed by anyone on behalf of Defendant. (ECF No. 37 at PageID 252–53.)

         Plaintiff’s first argument that the Settlement Agreement is not binding because it was not notarized is without merit. The Settlement Agreement does not contain an acknowledgment section or other verification section for a notary to complete, and Tennessee law does not require a settlement agreement, i.e. a contract, to be notarized to be binding upon the signatories. Plaintiff does not assert that the signature is not hers, but ...


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