ALONZO J. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
AMCOR FLEXIBLES, Defendant.
Anthony J. DiMarino, III, Esquire, A.J. DiMarino, III, PC, Woodbury, New Jersey, H. Francis deLone, Jr., Esquire, Pottstown, Pennsylvania, Attorneys for Plaintiff Alonzo J. Taylor
Christopher H. Lowe, Esquire, Anjanette Cabrera, Esquire, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, New York, New York, Attorneys for Defendant Amcor Flexibles.
NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court by way of Defendant Amcor Flexibles' motion [Doc. No. 141] seeking monetary and nonmonetary sanctions against Plaintiff's counsel in this litigation. The Court has considered the submissions relevant to this motion, and decides the matter pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78.
For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion for sanctions will be denied.
Plaintiff originally brought his claims pursuant to both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, as well as the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(a), and under New Jersey common law. The Court exercised original jurisdiction over Plaintiff's federal claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).
II. BACKGROUND & PRETRIAL HEARINGS
The factual background, procedural history, and Plaintiff's original claims in this case were set forth at length in the Court's prior Opinions and Orders of November 4, 2009, June 25, 2010, June 29, 2011, and February 6, 2012, and only the facts relevant to the current motion will be repeated here. After discovery and dispositive motion practice in this case concluded, the parties prepared for trial on Plaintiff's sole remaining claim for retaliation under Title VII and the NJLAD based on an alleged June 5, 2006 telephone call placed to Plaintiff's home.
Plaintiff's retaliation claim essentially alleged that subsequent to filing a charge of racial discrimination against his employer, Defendant Amcor Flexibles, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, Plaintiff received a retaliatory telephone call at his home at 5:13 a.m. on June 5, 2006. Plaintiff asserted that an unidentified caller said "[n]iggers aren't qualified to work in this business. Why you niggers complaining[?] Niggers shouldn't be in this business[.]" (See Op. [Doc. No. 92] 2, June 29, 2011.) Plaintiff's wife, Gail Taylor, testified at her deposition that when the call was made she was the one who answered the phone, heard the contents of the call, and relayed the contents to her husband, Plaintiff Alonzo Taylor. (Id.)
In preparation for a trial date in early 2012, the Honorable Karen M. Williams, United States Magistrate Judge, conducted the final pretrial conference in this matter on November 4, 2011 and entered a Joint Pretrial Order ("JPO") [Doc. No. 104] on that date. The JPO indicates that it "govern[s] the conduct of the trial in this case" and that amendments to the Order would "be allowed only in exceptional circumstances to prevent manifest injustice." (JPO [Doc. No. 104] 1, Nov. 4, 2011.) The JPO further "urged" counsel "to move to amend in a timely fashion any portion of the [JPO] that must be changed or modified between the filing of the order and the trial date." (Id.)
After entry of the JPO, the parties continued preparing for trial in this matter. Jury selection was originally scheduled to begin on February 1, 2012, and the trial was set to commence on February 2, 2012. At the pretrial charge conference held on January 31, 2012, Plaintiff submitted to the Court and Defendant his final witness list which asserted that the "only witness [would] be the plaintiff himself." (Pl.'s Witness List [Doc. No. 132] 1.) Upon receipt of Plaintiff's witness list at the January 31, 2012 charge conference, Defendant raised the issue that Plaintiff had not listed his wife, Gail Taylor, as a witness for trial. Defendant asserted that Ms. Taylor's testimony regarding the alleged phone call and the content of the call was necessary to prove Plaintiff's remaining retaliation claim. Defendant further argued that any testimony by Plaintiff regarding the content of the call based on what he was told by his wife raised hearsay admissibility issues.
Defendant pointed to the Court's June 25, 2010 Order which previously determined that "the unavailability of Plaintiff's wife to testify adds a layer of hearsay to any testimony regarding the contents of the allegedly retaliatory phone call she received[.]" (Order [Doc. No. 67] 2, June 25, 2010.) The Court recognized in the June 25, 2010 Order that "further argument [was] necessary to determine the scope of Plaintiff's potential testimony regarding the phone call... and whether such testimony would fall under any hearsay exceptions or [if it was] otherwise admissible before the Court [could] make a final determination" with respect to the viability of Plaintiff's retaliation claim. ( Id. at 3.)
When the issue of Ms. Taylor's potential unavailability as a witness first arose in late spring/early summer of 2010, the Court conducted a hearing on July 21, 2010 and ultimately ruled that Defendant could take Ms. Taylor's deposition. (Op. [Doc. No. 92] 4, June 29, 2011.) At the July 21, 2010 hearing, the Court also granted Defendant leave, upon completion of Ms. Taylor's deposition, to make any appropriate motion relating to the admissibility of her testimony at trial with respect to procedural and evidentiary issues, including a renewed dispositive motion on the remaining retaliation claim. ( Id. at 5.) Following Ms. Taylor's deposition, Defendant filed a motion [Doc. No. 76] to strike her testimony, for sanctions, and for summary ...