The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, District Judge
In advance of a retrial of aspects of this civil rights litigation, the Court is presented with Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment [Docket Item 179] and Defendants' motion in limine [Docket Item 185]. Plaintiffs' motion argues that under the doctrine of collateral estoppel the only liability issue to be retried is whether the municipality of Camden can be held liable for the hostile work environment Plaintiffs were subjected to while employed by the Camden Fire Department. Defendants' motion seeks to preclude evidence of discrimination and retaliation after August 20, 2001, when Plaintiffs filed their complaint in this action. Defendants also maintain that Plaintiffs are bound by the amount of compensatory damages calculated in their first trial. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment, but hold that Plaintiffs may not recover additional compensatory damages for hostile environment under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 beyond what they were awarded under NJLAD in their first trial. The Court will deny Defendants' motion in limine as presented, but will prohibit Plaintiffs from presenting evidence of discrimination and retaliation that arose after the jury verdict in their first trial on December 9, 2004.
This action was brought on August 20, 2001 by Plaintiffs Kevin Hailey and Terrence Crowder (collectively, "Plaintiffs") against Defendants City of Camden, former Fire Chief Herbert Leary, and present Fire Chief Joseph Marini (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging racial discrimination and retaliation under Sections 1981 and 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 10:5-1 to -49.*fn1
Though previously tried by a jury and decided in favor of Plaintiffs as to all claims against all Defendants, it is now scheduled for a new jury trial solely on Plaintiffs' federal claims of race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 (failure to promote*fn2 and hostile work environment) against the City of Camden and to determine punitive damages, if any, against the City of Camden under NJLAD and against the individual defendants under Sections 1981, 1983 and NJLAD. Its "long and tortured past" leading to the forthcoming partial retrial is described in detail in the Court's April 29, 2009 Opinion and Order, Hailey v. City of Camden, --- F. Supp. 2d ----, 2009 WL 1228492 (D.N.J. 2009) ("Hailey II"), and the Court will set out only those facts and procedural history necessary to decide the matters presently before the Court.
Plaintiffs' claims were tried by consent pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) before the former Magistrate Judge and presented to a jury over a period of three weeks in November and December 2004. Before deliberating, the Magistrate Judge gave the jury the following charge regarding Plaintiffs' NJLAD claim for hostile work environment against the City of Camden:
In order to make out an actionable hostile work environment claim under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, a plaintiff must prove that the conduct of which they complain:
(1) would not have occurred but for their race; and
(2) that it was severe or pervasive enough to make a
(3) reasonable African American would believe that
(4) the conditions of his employment were altered and his work environment was hostile or abusive [Docket Item 75, Jury Charge]. With regards to the NJLAD race discrimination claims, the jury found against all Defendants and awarded lost wages to each plaintiff in the amounts of $116,000 as to Crowder and $70,000 as to Hailey (by indicating "SEE ABOVE" in reference to the lost wages award under Sections 1981 and 1983) against each defendant and $1 for all other losses. The jury likewise found against all Defendants on Plaintiffs' NJLAD hostile work environment claims, similarly awarding the same amount ("SEE ABOVE") of lost wages to each plaintiff against each defendant. In addition, the jury awarded Crowder $50,000 against the City of Camden, $30,000 against Leary, and $20,000 against Marini for other losses under his NJLAD hostile work environment claim. The jury awarded Hailey $50,000 against the City of Camden, $20,000 against Leary, and $30,000 against Marini for other losses on his NJLAD hostile work environment claim.
The jury similarly found in favor of both Plaintiffs against all Defendants on their race discrimination claims under Sections 1981 and 1983, awarding Crowder $116,000 and Hailey $70,000 in lost wages, and both $1 for all other losses. The jury found in favor of both Plaintiffs against the individual defendants Leary and Marini for their federal First Amendment claims, indicating "SEE ABOVE" for each on lost wages (referencing the amount under the federal race discrimination claims), and awarding them each $1 for all other losses.
Finally, the jury determined that the City of Camden should pay Crowder $350,000 and Hailey $300,000 in punitive damages without distinguishing between federal and state claims, but did not award the ...