United States District Court, Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division
W. Earl Britt, Senior U.S. District Judge
This matter comes before the court on plaintiff Joseph Gilreath’s (“plaintiff”) “motion for relief from a judgment or order, motion for injunction or restraining order, renewed motion for directed verdict, renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, and motion requesting new trial.” (DE # 117.) Defendant Cumberland County Board of Education (“defendant”) filed a response, (DE # 120), to which plaintiff filed a reply, (DE # 121). Plaintiff subsequently filed an affidavit correcting a mistake he made in a prior affidavit attached to his reply. (DE # 123.)
Plaintiff began his employment as a band director at Anne Chesnutt Middle School in Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1993. He suffers from ADHD and hypertension which allegedly affect his short-term memory and his ability to manage multiple tasks and activities at the same time. On 4 November 2011, plaintiff filed this action against defendant, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). This case proceeded to jury trial on 3 November 2014. At trial, plaintiff asserted two claims under the ADA: (1) failure to accommodate and (2) retaliation. At the close of plaintiff’s evidence, defendant moved for judgment as a matter of law on both claims, and the court granted the motion as to the failure to accommodate claim. At the close of all evidence, both parties moved for judgment as a matter of law on the retaliation claim. The court subsequently denied both motions and submitted the claim to the jury, which returned a verdict in favor of defendant. (DE # 109.)
Now before the court is plaintiff’s omnibus motion seeking to challenge the jury verdict. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b), plaintiff renews his motion for judgment as a matter of law on his failure to accommodate and retaliation claims. (DE # 117, at 1.) Plaintiff also moves, under Rule 60(b), for relief from the judgment on both claims. (Id.) In the event the court denies his motions, plaintiff moves for a new trial on both claims pursuant to Rule 59. (Id.) If the court grants a new trial, plaintiff requests, pursuant to Rule 65, “an injunction or restraining order . . . that would prevent witnesses Thomas Hatch and/or Michael Bain from testifying at the new trial due to perjury and/or fraud.” (Id.) The court will address each of plaintiff’s motions in turn.
A. Plaintiff’s renewed motions for judgment as a matter of law
Pursuant to Rule 50(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, plaintiff renews his Rule 50(a) motion for judgment as a matter of law on his retaliation and failure to accommodate claims. Although plaintiff has filed a Rule 50(b) motion as to both claims, the court notes that plaintiff never moved under Rule 50(a) for judgment as a matter of law on his failure to accommodate claim, as that claim was dismissed when the court partially granted defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law. Generally, a plaintiff cannot renew a Rule 50 motion that was never made. See Singer v. Dungan, 45 F.3d 823, 828 (4th Cir. 1995) (noting that, although subject to some exceptions, “the general rule [is] that a Rule 50(a) motion at the close of all evidence is required to raise a Rule 50(b) motion”). Accordingly, to the extent plaintiff’s 50(b) motion relates to his failure to accommodate claim, it will be denied.
A court should not grant a Rule 50(b) motion unless, “without weighing the evidence or considering the credibility of the witnesses, [the court determines] that substantial evidence does not support the jury’s findings.” Konkel v. Bob Evans Farms Inc., 165 F.3d 275, 279 (4th Cir. 1999) (internal citation omitted). In ruling on the motion, the court will view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., 290 F.3d 639, 645 (4th Cir. 2002). The court will only grant the motion if no reasonable juror could have found for defendant. Id.
In support of his motion, plaintiff contends that Thomas Hatch (“Hatch”) and Michael Bain (“Bain”), both administrators at Anne Chesnutt Middle School during the time frame at issue, gave false testimony at trial. (DE # 117, at 5-14.) Plaintiff points to several alleged inconsistent statements made by Hatch and Bain at trial and argues that the jury should not have credited their testimony. (Id. at 5-9.) He contends that, in light of “possible perjury calling the defense witnesses’ credibility into question, . . . no reasonable juror would conclude that the defendant offered a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for adverse employment actions taken against the Plaintiff.” (Id. at 11.)
Plaintiff’s entire argument in favor of his Rule 50(b) motion is based on the alleged perjury of witnesses Hatch and Bain. However, as noted above, the court may not consider the credibility of witnesses in ruling on a Rule 50(b) motion. See Konkel, 165 F.3d at 279. “Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). At trial, plaintiff’s counsel vigorously cross-examined both Hatch and Bain, and the jurors remained attentive and had ample opportunity to form their opinions of the witnesses’ credibility. Further, the court instructed the jury regarding witness credibility and inconsistent testimony. Without weighing the evidence or considering the credibility of Hatch and Bain, the court finds that a reasonable juror could conclude that defendant did not retaliate against plaintiff within the meaning of the ADA. At trial, Hatch and Bain provided several reasons, which a reasonable juror could have credited, for giving plaintiff below standard ratings on his teacher evaluations. Accordingly, plaintiff’s Rule 50(b) motion will be denied.
B. Plaintiff’s motion for relief from the judgment
Pursuant to Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, plaintiff moves for relief from the judgment on both the failure to accommodate and retaliation claims. (DE # 117, at 1). This rule allows the court to relieve a party ...