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Michael Vines v. Illinois Municipal League

March 6, 2012

MICHAEL VINES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS MUNICIPAL LEAGUE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles P. Kocoras, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This case comes before the Court on Plaintiff Michael Vines' ("Vines") motion for a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a). For the reasons stated below, the motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

Vines, a sixty-two year old male, asserted an age discrimination claim against Defendants Illinois Municipal League and Illinois Municipal League Risk Management Association (collectively, "Defendants"). Following a jury verdict in Defendants' favor, judgment was entered against Vines on November 7, 2011. Vines now moves for a new trial, arguing that this Court erroneously excluded evidence of Vines' prior consistent statements. The Court summarizes the relevant facts below.

During the end of 2008, Larry Frang ("Frang"), the Executive Director of the Illinois Municipal League, hired Vines to complete audits for Defendants as an independent contractor. According to Vines, Frang soon thereafter offered Vines a permanent position as Defendants' Litigation and Claims Manager and then subsequently withdrew that offer. The Litigation and Claims Manager reports directly to Ann Masters ("Masters"), the Executive Director of Illinois Municipal League Risk Management Association. According to Vines, Frang told him that Masters would not hire Vines because she wanted someone younger. Vines testified that these conversations with Frang took place over the telephone.

Contradicting Vines' testimony, Frang testified that he never offered Vines a position as Defendants' Litigation and Claims Manager, never subsequently withdrew any offer, and never told Vines that Masters wanted to hire someone younger. On direct examination, Vines' counsel posed a series of questions to Frang concerning the basis for Vines' testimony, including whether Frang believed that Vines was delusional or lying. Frang speculated that Vines probably lied to prevail in his lawsuit against Defendants.

Vines then sought to introduce evidence of prior consistent statements Vines made to third parties, including his wife. Vines wanted these third parties to testify what Vines said that Frang stated in the telephone conversations. Vines claimed that he was offered a position by Frang which Frang later withdrew. Frang claimed that he never made a job offer to Vines. This was the principal factual dispute at trial. Both Vines and Frang, during pretrial proceedings and at trial, maintained the same positions expressed above--Vines claimed a job offer was made and Frang said no job offer was made. Both Vines and Frang have always been consistent about the differences in their respective versions of the telephone conversations.

Both in pretrial rulings and at trial, the Court understood that the testimony of the third parties as to what Vines said Frang said in the telephone conversations was offered to impeach Frang. Inasmuch as none of the third party witnesses spoke to Frang and relied only on what Vines said, their putative testimony was hearsay as to Frang. Because their putative testimony did not describe anything Frang said directly to them, it was not admissible to impeach Frang. The hearsay problem precluded any such usage.

Vines moves for a new trial, arguing that the Court should have admitted testimony concerning prior statements made by Vines to third parties between December 29, 2008 and March 19, 2009 that Frang twice offered Vines a job and twice withdrew the offer because Masters wanted to hire someone younger. In his post-trial papers, Vines now argues that he was the declarant for purposes of Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(1)(B) ("Rule 801(d)(1)(B)") and the third party putative testimony about the phone conversations was admissible to rebut an express or implied charge against Vines of recent fabrication or improper motive.

LEGAL STANDARD

After a jury trial, a court may grant a new trial "for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court." Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(a)(1)(A). Where a court erroneously excludes evidence, a party is only entitled to a new trial if a significant chance exists that the error affected the outcome of the trial. Schick v. Ill. Dep't of Human Servs., 307 F.3d 605, 611 (7th Cir. 2002); see Fed. R. Civ.

P. 61. (stating that an error in excluding evidence presents no ground for a new trial unless justice otherwise requires and directing courts to disregard errors that do not affect a party's substantial rights).

DISCUSSION*fn1

Vines argues that this Court erroneously excluded evidence which was admissible under Rule 801(d)(1)(B). A trial judge retains broad discretion in determining the admissibility of evidence under Rule 801(d)(1)(B). Christmas v. Sanders, 759 F.2d 1284, 1287 (7th Cir. 1985). Under Rule 801(d)(1)(B), an out-of-court statement is not hearsay if: (1) the statement is consistent with the declarant's trial testimony; (2) the statement is offered to rebut an express or implied charge of recent fabrication or improper motive against the declarant; (3) the statement was made before the declarant had a motive to fabricate; and (4) the declarant testifies at trial and is subject to cross-examination about the statement. United States v. Foster, 652 F.3d 776, 787 (7th Cir. 2011). Either the declarant or a third party may introduce a statement ...


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