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Long v. Libertywood Nursing Center

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

February 24, 2015

BRIDGET M. LONG, Plaintiff,
v.
LIBERTYWOOD NURSING CENTER, WILLIAM SCHUTZ, and DEBBIE DRAUGHN, Defendants,

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM L. OSTEEN, Jr., District Judge.

Plaintiff Bridget M. Long ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, filed this action asserting various claims of discrimination based on race and retaliation, violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"). This court subsequently dismissed several of Plaintiff's claims, leaving only her claim of retaliation in violation of Title VII. (Memorandum Opinion and Order ("Mem. Op. & Order") (Doc. 22) at 9.)

Presently before this court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Libertywood Nursing Center ("Defendant" or "Defendant Libertywood"). (Doc. 44.)[1] Plaintiff received a Roseboro letter, informing her of her right to respond to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 46.)

Plaintiff did not submit a formal response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, but instead, filed two documents opposing the motion. First, Plaintiff filed an Affidavit, entitled "Plaintiff's Pro Se Affidavit in Support of Plaintiff's Timely Motion Request to Dismiss Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and a Motion for a Direct Verdict and Relief, " what this court refers to as "Plaintiff's Affidavit." (Pl.'s Aff. (Doc. 51).) Second, Plaintiff filed her "Pro Se Informal Brief, " what this court refers to as "Plaintiff's Brief." (Pl.'s Br. (Doc. 52).) These documents, although they are not typical "responses, " do outline the reasons why Plaintiff believes Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment should be denied. Therefore, this court will consider the arguments put forth in both documents. Defendant has subsequently replied (Doc. 59), and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is now ripe for adjudication. Additionally, there are a number of other motions that are before this court, which this court will also address.

For the reasons that follow, this court will deny Plaintiff's Pre-trial Motion for United States Constitutional Law Clarity Concerns and Civil Rights Proceedings (Doc. 61); grant in part and deny in part Defendant's Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Exhibits (Doc. 56); deny Defendant's Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Affidavit (Doc. 53); deny Plaintiff's Motion Request to file Report in Court Records of Mediation Session Results and Relief from Assessed Payment of $500 (Doc. 48); grant Plaintiff's Motion/Request that Mediation Fees be Waived (Doc. 29); deny as moot Plaintiff's Pro Se Motion/Request that the Court Subpoena Witnesses for Trial (Doc. 28); and grant Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 44). Accordingly, this case will be dismissed.

I. PRELIMINARY MATTERS

As indicated above, there are a number of other motions before this court in addition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Some of these motions address the evidence this court is to consider in deciding Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. As a result, this court will address these preliminary motions first before considering Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

A. Request to Waive Mediation Costs (Doc. 29)

Plaintiff requests that this court waive her mediation costs. Local Rules allow this court to waive such fees. Specifically, Local Rule 83.9c(c) says,

If a party contends it is unable to pay its share of the mediator's fee, that party shall, before the conference, file a motion with the Court to be relieved of the obligation to pay. The motion shall be accompanied by an affidavit of financial standing. The mediated settlement conference should proceed without payment by the moving party, and the Court will rule on the motion upon completion of the case. The Court will take into consideration the outcome of the case, whether by settlement or judgment, and may relieve the party of its obligation to pay the mediator if payment would cause a substantial financial hardship. If the party is relieved of its obligation, the mediator shall remain uncompensated as to that portion of his or her fee, a circumstance that reflects the mediator's duty of pro bono service.

LR 83.9c(c), available at http://www.ncmd.uscourts.gov/sites /ncmd/files/CIV_LR.pdf.

Looking at the record, it appears that Plaintiff requested that this court waive the mediation fee before the mediation conference began. The mediator in this case was appointed on April 1, 2014. (Doc. 27.) Plaintiff made her first request for waiver of mediation fees on April 25, 2014. (Doc. 29.) Then, the conference took place on August 19, 2014. (Pl.'s Mot. for Relief from Assessed Payment of $500.00 (Doc. 48) at 1 (renewing Plaintiff's request for relief).) As part of her initial request, Plaintiff included an affidavit outlining her financial difficulties and her lack of a permanent job, satisfying the requirement that she provide an "affidavit of financial standing." (Pl.'s Aff. of Facts (Doc. 30) at 1.)

This court recognizes that this case will ultimately be resolved by judgment, rather than by settlement between the parties. However, this court also finds that requiring Plaintiff to pay the mediation costs would "cause a substantial financial hardship." See LR 83.9c(c). Based on these findings, this court finds it is proper to waive the mediator fees, and since this court is entering summary judgment on behalf of Defendant and dismissing the matter, now is the appropriate time to waive such fees.

Therefore, Plaintiff's initial request for waiver of mediation fees (Doc. 29) will be granted. Because it requests the same relief, Plaintiff's renewed motion for waiver of mediation costs (Doc. 48) will be denied as moot.

B. Motion to File Mediation Report (Doc. 48)

Along with asking that mediation costs be waived, Plaintiff also filed a "Motion Request to File Report in Court Records of Mediation Session Results." (Doc. 48.) Under this court's local rules,

Evidence of statements made and conduct occurring in a mediated settlement conference or otherwise in communications with a mediator during the mediation process... shall not be subject to discovery and shall be inadmissible in any proceeding in the action or other civil actions on the same claim.

LR 83.9e(i)(1). There are limited exceptions to this rule; for instance, the statements or conduct of a party during mediation can be disclosed in a proceeding for sanctions. See LR 83.9e(i)(1)(i).

To the extent that Plaintiff seeks to inform this court of the substance of the parties' negotiations, this information is inadmissible. To the extent Plaintiff seeks to report the parties' conduct during the mediation, Plaintiff has not made allegations of sanctionable conduct by either party. It appears that there may have been some miscommunication over the date and time of the mediation session, and this certainly was an inconvenience to Plaintiff who had to secure transportation. Nonetheless, based on the information in front of this court, it does not appear that sanctions are warranted. Accordingly, this motion will be denied.

C. Motion for Directed Verdict (Doc. 51)

The title of Plaintiff's Affidavit (Doc. 51) indicates that it is requesting a "direct verdict." There is no provision in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that specifically provides for a directed verdict, but Rule 50(a) allows the court to grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law, which would have the same effect as a directed verdict in a state court. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a).

However, this is not the correct time for Plaintiff to make such a motion. A motion for judgment as a matter of law occurs during a jury trial when the other party has "been fully heard." Id . This matter has not reached a trial before a jury, and as a result, this court cannot enter judgment as a matter of law for Plaintiff pursuant to Rule 50(a).

Additionally, Plaintiff has not shown that she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A judgment as a matter of law can be issued when the court "finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party." Id . This court would have to find that, assuming that all of the facts are the way that Defendant sees them, there is no way a jury could rule in Defendant's favor. As explained in this court's analysis of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, there are a number of facts that a jury could use to find for Defendant. Therefore, even if this was the proper time to consider a motion for judgment as a matter of law, or were this court to convert the motion to a motion for summary judgment, this court would not be able to grant such a motion for Plaintiff.

D. Request to Subpoena Witnesses for Trial (Doc. 28)

In a motion dated April 24, 2014, Plaintiff requested that approximately 30 witnesses be "subpoenaed for public trial proceedings" as Plaintiff believed these individuals have "knowledge of my employment discrimination and I being aggrieved in this case matter." (Pl.'s Motion/Request to Subpoena Witnesses (Doc. 28) at 1-4.)

Because of this court's decision on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment explained in this opinion, there will be no trial. Therefore, there is no need to subpoena witnesses. As a ...


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