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Capital Health Plan v. Moore

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

October 23, 2019

CAPITAL HEALTH PLAN, Appellant,
v.
Timothy MOORE, Appellee.

Page 614

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Leon County. Karen Gievers, Judge.

         Candy L. Messersmith of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, P.A., Orlando; Linda Bond Edward and David B. Shelton of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, P.A., Tallahassee, for Appellant.

         Richard E. Johnson of the Law Office of Richard E. Johnson, Tallahassee; Marie A. Mattox and James Garrity of Marie A. Mattox, P.A., Tallahassee, for Appellee.

         OPINION

         Osterhaus, J.

Page 615

          Dr. Timothy Moore won a $40,000 verdict plus front pay on his age discrimination claim against his employer Capital Health Plan (CHP), which promoted a younger doctor to a position that Dr. Moore sought. On appeal, CHP takes issue with the sufficiency of the evidence, the jury instructions, the award of front pay, and the attorneys’ fee award. We affirm, except for the attorneys’ fees issue, which we remand for additional consideration.

          I.

          In 2015, Dr. Moore filed a complaint alleging age discrimination against CHP under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The complaint alleged that CHP had created a new position within its eye care department and selected a less qualified doctor thirty years Dr. Moore’s junior. The case went to trial in 2017. After Dr. Moore rested his case, CHP moved for a directed verdict, arguing that Dr. Moore had failed to show that its nondiscriminatory reasons for selecting the younger doctor were pretextual. The trial court denied the motion and the case was sent to the jury. The jury found for Dr. Moore and awarded $40,000 in lost wages.

          Moore moved post-trial for front pay and attorneys’ fees, which CHP contested. The court awarded both. Dr. Moore received front pay in the amount of $10,000 for every year he continues to be employed by CHP. On attorney’s fees, the parties agreed on the number of hours worked, but not on the hourly rates. The court ultimately determined the hourly rates based on the testimony of one of Dr. Moore’s attorneys and the transcript of a fee hearing in a different case in federal court. CHP now appeals the final judgment and the orders granting front pay and attorneys’ fees.

          II.

          We find no error or abuse of discretion with the first three issues raised by CHP. First, with respect to the denial of CHP’s directed verdict motion, we must affirm unless "no proper view of the evidence could sustain a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party." Owens v. Publix Supermarkets, Inc., 802 So.2d 315, 329 (Fla. 2001). Review is de novo. Williams v. Washington, 120 So.3d 1263, 1264 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013). In this case, although CHP presented evidence suggesting that its hiring decision was based on legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons, Dr. Moore produced competent conflicting evidence that CHP’s given reasons for choosing the younger doctor over him were pretextual and that age was the actual reason. Given the conflicting evidence, we cannot conclude that the trial court erred by denying CHP’s motion for directed verdict.

          Secondly, no reversible error was made as to the jury instructions. We agree with CHP’s argument that Dr. Moore couldn’t prevail on his ADEA claim just by proving that age was "a motivating factor" in the promotion decision rather than a "but-for" reason. SeeGross v. FBL Fin. Servs., Inc.,557 U.S. 167, ...


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