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Grant v. Target Corporation

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

September 24, 2013

Mark Grant, Plaintiff,
Target Corporation, et al., Defendants.


TERENCE P. KEMP, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the motion to alter or amend the judgment filed by plaintiff Mark Grant. Defendant Target Corporation has filed a response to the motion. Mr. Grant has not filed a reply and the time for doing so now has passed. For the following reasons, the motion (#100) will be denied.

I. Background

On February 13, 2013, the Court issued an Opinion and Order in this employment discrimination case granting summary judgment in favor of Target on all Mr. Grants' claims. Specifically, the Court held that Mr. Grant had failed to make a prima facie showing of race discrimination under Title VII because he had not presented any evidence that he was treated less favorably than similarly situated non-African American employees. Further, the Court held that Mr. Grant had not made a prima facie showing of retaliation under Title VII because he was unable to establish a causal connection between his reporting of racial graffiti and his termination eighteen months later. The Court also granted summary judgment in favor of Target on Mr. Grant's state law claims and granted Target's motion to dismiss the individual defendants under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5). On March 13, 2013, Mr. Grant filed the current motion seeking to alter or amend the judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e).

II. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) provides that a party may file a motion to alter or amend a judgment no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment. The purpose of a motion to alter or amend judgment is to "allow district courts to correct their own errors, sparing the parties and appellate courts the burden of unnecessary appellate proceedings.'" Israfil v. Woods, 2013 WL 209476, *1 (S.D. Ohio January 17, 2013), quoting Howard v. United States , 533 F.3d 472, 475 (6th Cir. 2008). A court may grant a Rule 59(e) motion only if there was "(1) a clear error of law; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) an intervening change in controlling law; or (4) a need to prevent manifest injustice.'" ACLU of Ky. v. McCreary County, Ky. , 607 F.3d 439, 450 (6th Cir. 2010), quoting Intera Corp. v. Henderson , 428 F.3d 605, 620 (6th Cir. 2005); see also GenCorp, Inc. v. Am. Int'l Underwriters , 178 F.3d 804, 834 (6th Cir. 1999).

It is not ordinarily the function of a Rule 59(e) motion either to renew arguments already considered and rejected by a court or to proffer a new legal theory or new evidence to support a prior argument when the legal theory or argument could, with due diligence, have been discovered and offered during the initial consideration of the issue. Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Indian Tribes v. Engler , 146 F.3d 367, 374 (6th Cir. 1998). If a party disagrees with the Court's decision on a legal issue, its "proper recourse' is not by way of a motion for reconsideration but appeal to the Sixth Circuit.'" Dana Corp. v. United States , 764 F.Supp. 482, 489 (N.D. Ohio 1991). Although the Court can choose, in the interests of judicial economy, to rely on its earlier decision as the definitive resolution of the issues decided therein, it is also true that because the filing of a timely Rule 59 motion suspends the finality of the judgment for purposes of appeal and thereby renders the decision interlocutory in nature, the Court can, if it deems appropriate, revisit any legal determination de novo and alter, amend, or even reverse the prior decision if justice so requires. Binkley Co. v. Eastern Tank, Inc. , 831 F.2d 333, 336 n.4 (1st Cir. 1987); cf. Huff v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. , 675 F.2d 119, 122 n.5 (6th Cir. 1982). It is with these standards in mind that the instant motion will be decided.

III. Analysis

In his motion, Mr. Grant asserts that he is entitled to relief under Rule 59(e) because "[j]udgment was entered in the case without all factual and discoverable information presented to this Court...." See Motion (#100), p. 1. He seems to limit his focus primarily to his retaliation claim. For example, he emphasizes throughout his motion his belief that he was fired for his failure to complete a work assignment on January 24, 2009, specifically contrived by Target to provide a basis for his termination. As he explains, after he reported the racial graffiti, each time he inquired about the status of Target's investigation, he suffered escalating unfair treatment including isolation, heavy freight work assignments without assistance, and the withholding of proper equipment.

More to his point that all of the necessary evidence was not before this Court, Mr. Grant states that several of his team members witnessed this alleged mistreatment but that Target disregarded his request for their contact information during discovery. He contends that Target failed to provide documents, contact information, and interrogatory responses, and that this required him to file a motion to compel. As he explains, "[w]ithout the contact information from the witness list provided to the Defendant it is impossible for Plaintiff to show causal connection between reporting of racial graffiti and date of termination. The team members on the witness list were eyewitnesses to the extreme unfair treatment Plaintiff had to endure because the treatment had distinctively changed after each inquiry about status of investigation." See Motion (#100), p. 3.

Further, Mr. Grant specifically points to Matt Brown as a witness "vital" to his case whose contact information Target did not provide. See Motion (#100), p. 3. Mr. Grant also notes that, in connection with his appeal hearing following his termination, his witnesses, including Matt Brown, were removed from his witness list by Target employees without his consent. Finally, Mr. Grant argues that he should have been provided, as part of the discovery process, the depositions of Eric Fitzpatrick and Paul Fox taken by Target.

In support of his motion, Mr. Grant has submitted an affidavit swearing to the motion's accuracy. He also has submitted a copy of a letter dated June 11, 2009 directed to the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission addressing Target's failure to comply with his request for witness contact information. Further, he has included a one-page, unsigned, undated, and unsworn document discussing a work assignment involving Matt Brown.

In response, Target asserts that Mr. Grant did not conduct any depositions and that he failed to attend the depositions of Eric Fitzpatrick and Paul Fox, two non-party witnesses from whom he had submitted affidavits in response to Target's first motion for summary judgment. Further, it argues that Mr. Grant's motion to compel was denied by the Court and that Mr. Grant did not file any other motions to compel.

With specific reference to the Rule 59(e) standard, Target contends that Mr. Grant simply has reiterated the same arguments and has not presented any new evidence. As Target sees it, Mr. Grant had over two years to conduct discovery or file a proper motion to compel objecting to Target's discovery responses, but he did neither. Target argues that Mr. Grant's position that he was not provided sufficient discovery is not grounds for altering or amending a judgment under Rule 59(e). Finally, Target contends that, although Mr. Grant believes that Matt Brown would have been a critical witness, and offers his opinion as to what Mr. Brown knew about the underlying facts, he neither ...

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