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PRICE v. RUNYON

December 19, 1996

F. CAROL PRICE, Plaintiff,
v.
MARVIN RUNYON, Postmaster General of the United States, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FISHER

 FISHER, District Judge

 This matter comes before the court on a motion by plaintiff, F. Carol Price, for judgment as a matter of law or, alternatively, for a new trial pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50 and 59. This matter was tried to a jury during May, 1996. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants and against the plaintiff for no cause for action.

 Plaintiff's complaint alleged a cause of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16, Title VII, of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended. Plaintiff claims that she is currently entitled to the relief which she seeks because of errors made in charging the jury on the applicable law, because certain findings by the jury were against the weight of the evidence, and as the verdict sheet submitted to the jury did not contain all the applicable causes of action alleged by plaintiff. Plaintiff has presented a six-point argument to this court. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motion will be denied.

 I. MOTION FOR A NEW TRIAL

 New trials are infrequently given and generally disfavored. Ford Motor Co. v. Summit Motor Prods., Inc., 930 F.2d 277, 301 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 939, 116 L. Ed. 2d 324, 112 S. Ct. 373 (1991). A new trial may be ordered when a verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence, Roebuck v. Drexel Univ., 852 F.2d 715, 735-37 (3d Cir. 1988), or when there is a substantial error in the instructions to the jury. Savarese v. Agriss, 883 F.2d 1194, 1202-05 (3d Cir. 1989). A new trial should not be ordered simply because the court might have reached a different conclusion. Fineman v. Armstrong World Indus., Inc., 774 F. Supp. 266, 269 (D.N.J. 1991), aff'd inpart and rev'd in part on other grounds, 980 F.2d 171 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 507 U.S. 921, 122 L. Ed. 2d 677 (1993).

 A. Form of the Verdict Sheet

 Plaintiff objects to the fact that the verdict sheet did not contain any provisions concerning her claim of wrongful discharge in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. The plaintiff alleges that separate claims for sexual harassment, employment retaliation and wrongful discharge had been set forth in her complaint. It is the plaintiff's contention that these are separate theories of liability and that failure to mention the claim of wrongful discharge on the verdict sheet was in error and a new trial is now required.

 Although a new trial may be ordered when there is a substantial error in the instructions to the jury, Savarese, 883 F.2d at 1202-05 (3d Cir. 1989), plaintiff has failed to present such an error. It is clear that the wrongful discharge claim was subsumed under and incorporated within the other Title VII claims asserted by the plaintiff. Count Five of plaintiff's complaint clearly states:

 
Such acts of sexual harassment and retaliatory conduct, by defendants. . . as described above resulted in the wrongful discharge of plaintiff from her employment on or about January 5, 1994 in violation of the plaintiff's rights under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended.

 Complaint P 56 (emphasis added). The verdict sheet required the jury to determine both whether the plaintiff was sexually harassed and whether she was retaliated against for participating in the EEO process. The jury answered "no" to both of these claims, thereby eliminating the possibility that either "resulted in" the wrongful discharge of plaintiff from her employment.

 B. Charge on Employment Retaliation

 Plaintiff argues that this court committed error in charging the jury on plaintiff's Title VII retaliation claim. First, plaintiff contends that the following charge to the jury was made in error:

 
If you find that the defendants have articulated a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the adverse action, then you must decide whether the plaintiff has proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendants' proffered reason is not the true reason and that her protected activity was the real reason. Once the defendants come forward with a non-discriminatory reason, the plaintiff must show: (1) that the defendants' proffered explanation is false, and (2) that the real reason was retaliation for her having engaged in protected activity. It is not enough to disbelieve the defendant; you must believe plaintiff's explanation of intentional retaliation.

 Plaintiff's brief at 8 (emphasis in original). There was no error made on this charge as it reflects the holding in St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, ...


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