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Jenkins v. Anton

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

June 8, 2017

JENNIFER JENKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
S. DAVID ANTON, PA and S. DAVID ANTON, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JAMZ'S S. MOODY. JR., Judge

         THIS CAUSE comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion to Amend or Alter the Judgment or for a New Trial, and/or Alternatively, for Relief from the Judgment (Doc. 106) and Defendants' Response in Opposition (Doc. 111). Upon review, the Court concludes that Plaintiff's motion should be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff worked as a paralegal at S. David Anton, PA from February 2013 to November 2013. She filed this action in February 2015, alleging that Defendants failed to pay her overtime as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Court held a four-day bench trial in this action in February and March of 2017. Afterward, the Court entered a judgment in favor of Defendants (Docs. 98 & 100) because Plaintiff did not prove that she worked in excess of forty hours in any workweek that she was employed. Plaintiff now asks the Court to amend that judgment, grant her a new trial, or otherwise provide her with relief from the judgment.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Rule 59

         Pursuant to Rule 59, a court may grant a new trial or amend a judgment entered after trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59. The court may grant a new trial “for any reason for which a rehearing has heretofore been granted in a suit in equity in federal court.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(2). Some of these reasons include verdicts that are against the weight of the evidence, evidentiary flaws, and the prevention of injustice. Montgomery Ward & Co. v. Duncan, 311 U.S. 243, 251 (1940). Alternatively, the court may amend the judgment based on “newly-discovered evidence or manifest errors of law or fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e); Jacobs v. Tempur-Pedic Int'l, Inc., 626 F.3d 1327, 1344 (11th Cir. 2010) (internal citation omitted). Ultimately, the court has discretion in determining whether to grant a new trial or amend a judgment. See, e.g., Montgomery v. Noga, 168 F.3d 1282, 1295 (11th Cir. 1999).

         Plaintiff argues that the Court should grant her a new trial or amend its judgment based on (1) the unavailability of an impeachment witness, (2) newly discovered evidence, and (3) a manifest error of fact and/or law. The Court will address each of these arguments in turn.

         i) Unavailability of a witness

         Plaintiff seeks a new trial because she hopes to call Yvette Rodriguez, Plaintiff's predecessor in the paralegal position, as an impeachment witness. Ms. Rodriguez would rebut Defendant Anton's testimony that Ms. Rodriguez did not work overtime during her employment with him. Plaintiff was unable to call Ms. Rodriguez as a witness at trial because she was unexpectedly hospitalized. Plaintiff did not list Ms. Rodriguez as a possible witness in her pretrial statement, notify the Court that she wanted Ms. Rodriguez to testify, or seek a continuance due to Ms. Rodriguez's unavailability. Plaintiff argues that not allowing her to present testimony to challenge Defendant Anton's veracity would be a miscarriage of justice.

         First of all, impeachment evidence is not sufficient to warrant a new trial. Southard v. Russell, 57 U.S. 547, 561 (1853); Davis v. Yellow Cab Co. of St. Petersburg, 220 F.2d 790, 792 (5th Cir. 1955); see also Toole v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 235 F.3d 1307, 1316 (11th Cir. 2000) (enunciating rule in context of motion for new trial under Rule 60(b)). Second, there is no miscarriage of justice when Plaintiff's inability to present Ms. Rodriguez's testimony was due to Plaintiff's strategic choices. Plaintiff was not surprised by Defendant Anton's testimony about Ms. Rodriguez's employment-Defendant Anton gave the same testimony in his deposition, and Plaintiff acknowledges that she coordinated to have Ms. Rodriguez testify as an impeachment witness “in preparation for trial.” If Plaintiff wanted to ensure that the Court benefitted from Ms. Rodriguez's testimony, she should have taken Ms. Rodriguez's deposition and entered it into evidence.[1] Plaintiff's failure to do so does not require the Court to allow the untimely introduction of new evidence.

         ii) Newly discovered evidence

         Plaintiff seeks a new trial or an amended judgment due to a newly discovered email that indicates that there may have been a spoliation of evidence. Plaintiff states that an anonymous person mailed her a printout of this email a few days after the Court entered the judgment in this case. The email is dated April 9, approximately two weeks after Defendants filed their answer to Plaintiff's complaint. In the email, Defendant Anton noted that he had deleted thousands of emails from his deleted items folder on Outlook and asked his IT support person, Shane Ragland, to delete all emails from 2014 and earlier that were in the deleted items folder on the firm's server.

         Plaintiff argues that if Defendants had properly produced this email during discovery, she could have “further investigate[d] the issue, take[n] a different approach to the case and/or trial, and address[ed] it with the Court.” Plaintiff does not satisfactorily describe how she would have approached the trial differently. Plaintiff likely would have used the email to impeach Defendant Anton, but impeachment evidence is not grounds for a new trial. Davis, 220 F.2d at 792. Plaintiff may also have argued that there had been a ...


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