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Tinsley v. City of Charlotte

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

July 29, 2019

MICHAEL TINSLEY, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF CHARLOTTE, Defendants.

          ORDER

          GRAHAM C. MULLEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER COMES before this Court on Defendant City of Charlotte's (“Defendant”) Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law. (Doc. No. 98). Plaintiff Michael Tinsley (“Plaintiff”) responded (Doc. No. 105) to which Defendant replied. (Doc. No. 106). As such, this matter is ripe for disposition.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff sued Defendant alleging discrimination on the basis of his sex and his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”) (Doc. No. 1). Defendant moved for summary judgment on all claims which this Court denied on November 5, 2018.

         This case was tried to a jury from March 19, 2019 until March 26, 2019. At the close of Plaintiff's case in chief and also at the close of all evidence, Defendant moved, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50, for judgment as a matter of law. This Court denied both motions. The jury ultimately returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff on the sex discrimination issue but found that Defendant did not discriminate against Plaintiff on the basis of his race.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b), a trial court may grant a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law if “there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for the nonmoving party on that issue." Golson v. Green Tree Financing Services, Inc., 26 Fed.Appx. 209, 211 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting DeJarnette v. Corning, Inc., 133 F.3d 293, 297 (4th Cir. 1998)). “If, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to have found in [its] favor, we are constrained to affirm the jury verdict.” Lack v. Wal Mart Stores, Inc., 240 F.3d 255, 259 (4th Cir. 2001).

         When determining whether to grant a motion for new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59, a court may weigh the evidence and consider the credibility of witnesses. Cline v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 294, 301 (4th Cir. 1998). “A new trial will be granted if ‘(1) the verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence, or (2) is based upon evidence which is false, or (3) will result in a miscarriage of justice, even though there may be substantial evidence which would prevent the direction of a verdict.'” Id. (quoting Atlas Food Sys. & Servs., Inc. v. Crane Nat'l Vendors, Inc., 99 F.3d 587, 594 (4th Cir.1996). The decision to grant or deny a new trial is a matter within the Court's sound discretion. Cline, 144 F.3d at 301.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendant moved this Court for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new trial. In support of this Motion, Defendant argues that (1) Plaintiff introduced insufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of his sex, (2) Plaintiff failed to provide a legally sufficient comparator to support his claim, and (3) Defendant provides a laundry list of other perceived errors in the trial. The Court will discuss each below.

         a. Sufficient Evidence to Support the Jury Verdict

          First, Defendant argues that Plaintiff did not provide sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find that Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff. In support of this argument, Defendant argues that Plaintiff had an extensive disciplinary history and no reasonable jury could conclude that Defendant fired Plaintiff for any reason other than his job performance.

         The Court disagrees. Defendant spent a considerable amount of time during the trial walking through Plaintiff's disciplinary history in front of the jury. Plaintiff's disciplinary history appeared in Defendant's opening, in Defendant's cross examinations, in Defendant's case-in-chief, and finally in Defendant's closing. Suffice it to say, Plaintiff's disciplinary history was well known to the jury. The jury, however, found that it was sex discrimination, not that disciplinary history, that led to Plaintiff's termination.

         That decision was well supported by the evidence. The investigation that ultimately led to Plaintiff's termination was the result of Plaintiff being accused of rape by Aimee Aquino (“Aquino”), a female officer who also worked for Defendant. During the investigation, Sargent Burke of Internal Affairs interviewed Plaintiff regarding the incident. Later, Plaintiff appeared before a Chain of Command Review Board. During that hearing, Plaintiff again provided testimony ...


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