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Morningstar v. Circleville Fire & EMS Department

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 12, 2018

AMIE L. MORNINGSTAR, Plaintiff,
v.
CIRCLEVILLE FIRE & EMS DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

          Deavers Magistrate Judge

          OPINION & ORDER

          ALGENON L. MARBLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration. Defendants request that the Court reconsider its partial denial of the Defendants' previous Motion for Summary Judgement with respect to the Plaintiff's Title VII claims. (ECF No. 54). The Court DENIES Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On December 11, 2015, the Plaintiff, Amie Morningstar, brought this action against Defendants Circleville Fire Department & EMS Department (“CFD”), City of Circleville, and Marc Zingarelli. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff alleged, inter alia, causes of action under Title VII for gender discrimination, retaliation, hostile work environment, and sexual harassment. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff was the first female firefighter in the City of Circleville. (ECF No. 24 at 5). Her claims arise out of the Defendants' actions before and during her employment as a full-time firefighter. (ECF No. 1).

         Defendants moved for summary judgement on April 19, 2017. (ECF No. 17). After oral argument on that motion, the Court requested additional briefing regarding whether the Plaintiff's federal discrimination claims should be dismissed for a failure to exhaust administrative remedies. (ECF No. 31). Both parties submitted supplemental briefs and reply briefs on this issue. (ECFs Nos. 32-35). The Court then granted in part and denied in part the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgement. (ECF No. 36). Specifically, the Court denied summary judgment on the Plaintiff's federal discrimination claims against the City of Circleville and CFD. (ECF No. 36 at 39-40). The Court found that Defendants were estopped from arguing that Plaintiff's failure to exhaust her administrative remedies should result in dismissal of her Title VII claims (ECF No. 36 at 13). Defendants now move for the Court to reconsider its decision to apply equitable estoppel against them. (ECF No. 54).

         II. LEGAL STANDAND

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), a court will reconsider its own prior decision “if the moving party demonstrates: (1) a clear error of law; (2) newly discovered evidence that was not previously available to the parties; or (3) an intervening change in controlling law.” Owner-Operator Indep. Drivers Ass'n, Inc. v. Arctic Express, Inc., 288 F.Supp.2d 895, 900 (S.D. Ohio 2003). Courts may also alter or amend a judgment when necessary “to prevent manifest injustice.” GenCorp., Inc. v. Am. Int'l Underwriters, 178 F.3d 804, 834 (6th Cir. 1999). Reconsideration due to a finding of manifest injustice or a clear error of law requires “unique circumstances, ” such as complete failure to address an issue or claim. McWhorter v. ELSEA, Inc., No. 2:00-CV-473, 2006 WL 3483964, at *2 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 30, 2006) (citing Collison v. Int'l Chem. Workers Union, Local 217, 34 F.3d 233, 236 (4th Cir. 1994)). Even for motions to reconsider interlocutory orders, courts respect the importance of “grant[ing] some measure of finality… and [of] discourag[ing] the filing of endless motions for reconsideration” in applying the relevant criteria. Id. A motion under Rule 59(e) may not be brought to relitigate issues previously considered by the Court or to present evidence that could have been raised earlier. See J.P. v. Taft, No. C2-04-692, 2006 WL 689091, at *3 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 15, 2006).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendants argue that “this Court's decision that the doctrine of equitable estoppel excused Plaintiff's failure to exhaust her administrative remedies under Title VII was a clear error of law” and that therefore this Court should reconsider its denial of summary judgment on Plaintiff's Title VII claims. (ECF No. 54 at 2). This Court does not agree. The Court has already considered all issues which Defendants now raise and maintains that it properly applied equitable estoppel in its previous order.

         The present motion does not rely on any evidence that was unavailable to the Defendants at the time of their supplemental brief, nor does it rely on any intervening change in the governing law. Rather, Defendants argue that this Court committed a clear legal error by applying equitable estoppel to prevent Defendants from raising the Plaintiff's failure to exhaust her administrative remedies. (ECF No. 54 at 2). To receive reconsideration based on a clear error of law alone, Defendants must show “unique circumstances” such as a court's total failure to address an issue. See 2006 WL 3483964 at *2 (citing Collison v. Int'l Chem. Workers Union, Local 217, 34 F.3d 233, 236 (4th Cir. 1994) (granting reconsideration because the court had failed to address a due process claim)). Defendants have failed to show such circumstances. The Court addressed the exhaustion and estoppel issues in its order on summary judgement (ECF No. 36 at 10-15).

         “There must be an end to litigation someday.” Ackerman v. U.S., 340 U.S. 193, 211-12 (1950) (denying relief for a petitioner who failed to make a timely appeal). Absent newly discovered evidence or an intervening change in law, once parties have had the opportunity to submit arguments to the court and the court has examined the surrounding doctrine, it is time for litigation to end - at the trial level at least. See McWhorter, 2006 WL 3483964 at *2. Such is the case here.

         Both parties have presented their arguments regarding the exhaustion requirement through a variety of avenues already. Defendants argued that the Plaintiff's Title VII claims should be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies in their motion for summary judgement. (ECF No. 17 at 8). Although the Plaintiff's response to that motion did not address the exhaustion argument, the Plaintiff presented relevant counterarguments at the subsequent hearing. (ECF No. 36 at 11). Both parties later provided supplemental briefs on this issue as well. (ECF Nos. 31-35). The parties, therefore, have already received extensive opportunities to proffer arguments regarding the exhaustion requirement and the equitable exceptions to it. Now Defendants merely assert that Plaintiff, in failing to exhaust her administrative remedies, did not rely on an affirmative act of the Defendants and had knowledge of the exhaustion requirement because she was represented by counsel. (ECF No. 54). However, Defendants had opportunities to present these arguments in their summary judgment motion, at oral argument, and in their supplemental briefs.

         In ruling on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, this Court addressed at length the exhaustion requirement and the equitable exceptions to that requirement. (ECF No. 36 at 10-15). Defendants fail to raise any new legal issues that the Court has not previously addressed or considered. Defendants' arguments in their present motion merely express disagreement with the Court's discussion of the very same issues, particularly with regard to the Court's application of ...


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