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Debora Schmidt v. Mars

December 4, 2012

DEBORA SCHMIDT PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARS, INC. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Peter G. Sheridan, U.S.D.J.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court on a motion for Judgment notwithstanding the jury's verdict or alternatively for a new trial by Plaintiff Debora Schmidt ("Plaintiff" or "Schmidt")in this case. For the reasons below, the motion is denied because it fails to meet the procedural requirements of the Rules of Court, and does not substantially meet the test for granting such motions.

I.

Motion for Entry of Judgment as a Matter of Law

A. Procedural Defect

A Rule 50 motion for entry of a judgment as a matter of law may be "made at any time before the case is submitted to the jury." So long as the motion was made during trial, a party may submit a "renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law after the trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a)(2) and 50(b). Rinehimer v. Cemcolift, Inc., 292 F. 3d 375 (3d Cir. 2002). See also Tortu v. Las Vegas Metro. Police Dep't,556 F. 3d 1075, 1081 (9th Cir. 2009). Here, no such motion was made at trial. As such, the motion for a judgment as a matter of law is denied.

B. Substantive Defect

In order to grant a Rule 50 motion, the Court must "find that a reasonable jury would not have had a legally sufficient basis to find for the party on that issue." More particularly,

Judgment as a matter of law is proper only where "a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue." Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a)(1). In entertaining a Rule 50 motion, a court should review the record as a whole, but disregard all evidence favorable to the moving party that the jury is not required to believe. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 151, 120 S. Ct. 2097, 147 L. Ed. 2d 105 (2000). "[T]he court should give credence to the evidence favoring the non-movant as well as that evidence supporting the moving party that is uncontradicted and unimpeached, at least to the extent that that evidence comes from disinterested witnesses." Id.

McCann v. Miller, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 21960 (3d Cir. 2012)

Schmidt claims that she proved that Mark Dunckle was a "comparator of plaintiff for the purposes of NJLAD" and argued that she was discriminated against because "Dunckle was not assigned project work, and he was paid more . . . classified in a higher pay grade." (Pl. Br. at 2.) However, the testimony at trial is at odds with Plaintiff's claim. For example, Mr. Monfries, Schmidt's manager, testified that Dunckle's work was different from Schmidt's work -- Dunckle focused on state taxes from each state in which Mars sold its products (about 30 states), whereas Schmidt solely worked on federal taxes. In addition, Mr. Monfries testified that unlike Dunckle, Schmidt's work performance was assessed as sub-par.

Further, other witnesses testified that Schmidt was terminated for various reasons, including that she was opposed to traveling to Mars' Virginia office to coordinate her work with other tax employees. Her negative reaction caused friction between Schmidt and her managers.

Schmidt's managers attempted to resolve this dispute by affording her more advanced notice of the travel requirement so she could prepare plans for her family. Instead, Schmidt claimed that it was an act of discrimination to require her to travel to Virginia, while excusing Dunckle from the requirement. This allegation was refuted by Mr. Monfries who testified that he sometimes excused Dunckle from traveling to Virginia because Dunckle often traveled around the country to attend to state tax matters which Schmidt was not required to do. In addition to the above, there were several other witnesses including Carla Lang and Karen Urankar who simply disputed all of Plaintiff's claims. Strikingly, one of the plaintiff's witnesses, Kim Morgan, a co-worker, did not believe plaintiff had a bona fide discrimination case. More specifically, Ms. Morgan, on cross-examination testified:

Q. Isn't it true that you told her [Schmidt] that you would not support her because you did ...


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