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Deborah Cook v. International Corporation

October 29, 2012

DEBORAH COOK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on plaintiff Deborah Cook's ("Cook") Rule 59 motion for a new trial and to reconsider the denial of her Rule 37 fee petition and 28 U.S.C § 1927 motion (Doc. 172). Defendant IPC International Corporation ("IPC") filed a response (Doc. 173). For the following reasons the Court denies Cook's motion in its entirety.

1.Rule 59 Motion for a New Trial

Cook asserts the Court should grant her a new trial because the Court admitted unauthenticated hearsay documents that went to the jury, and because the Court failed to take "curative action" or strike defendant's pleadings after plaintiff pointed out defendant's discovery violations. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)(1)(A) allows the Court to grant a new jury trial "for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court." This includes where the verdict is against the manifest weight of the evidence, the damages are excessive, or the trial was unfair to the moving party. Kapelanski v. Johnson, 390 F.3d 525, 530 (7th Cir. 2004). "The improper admission of evidence provides a basis for granting a new trial only if the error is prejudicial." Cook v. Hoppin, 783 F.2d 684 (7th Cir. 1986) (citing 6A J. Moore, Moore's Federal Practice ¶59.08[2], at 59-83 (1985)).

Here, Cook alleges that the Court improperly admitted unauthenticated hearsay documents containing hearsay statements made by Dane Spaulding and Joe Dumey and sent those documents to the jury. Cook asserts that the Court initially admitted these documents because they were not being offered for the truth of the matter asserted. Then, over Cook's objection, the Court admitted the documents for the truth of the matter asserted. Defendant's response argues that the two letters by Joe Dumey and Dane Spaulding were authenticated at trial and properly admitted pursuant the business records exception to the hearsay rule found in Federal Rule of Evidence 803(b).

Federal Rule of Evidence 803(b) provides that business records are an exception to the rule against hearsay regardless of whether the declarant is available as a witness. Specifically, Rule 803(b)(6) defines "records of a regularly conducted activity" as follows:

A record of an act, event, condition, opinion, or diagnosis if : (A) the record was made at or near the time by -- or from information transmitted by -- someone with knowledge; (B) the record was kept in the course of a regularly conducted activity of a business, organization, occupation, or calling, whether or not for profit; (C) making the record was a regular practice of that activity; (D) all these conditions are shown by the testimony of the custodian or another qualified witness, or by a certification that complies with Rule 902(11) or (12) or with a statute permitting certification; and (E) the source of information nor the method or circumstances of preparation indicate a lack of trustworthiness.

Fed. R. Evid. 803(b)(6). The record indicates that the letters in question were authenticated by Charley Spann and admitted properly within the Court's discretion as a business record. Cook fails to indicate why the witness's authentication of the records was inappropriate. Further, Cook fails to explain why this letter would not qualify as business record. Even if this record were improperly admitted, Cook has failed to argue how such an error was prejudicial.

Next, Cook asserts that "[IPC] has willfully and repeatedly violated the most elementary and fundamental rules of discovery and civil procedure, thus depriving plaintiff of a fair trial, and a new trial is warranted." Doc. 172, p. 2. The Court does not agree with Cook's characterizations of IPC's conduct. Cook also fails to explain to the Court how IPC's alleged discovery violations made her trial unfair. Accordingly, the Court denies Cook's motion for a new trial on both the grounds that the Court improperly admitted evidence and IPC's discovery violations resulted in an unfair trial.

2.Motion to Reconsider Denial of Rule 37 Fee Petition and 28 U.S.C. § 1927 Motion

Cook also asks this Court to reconsider its denial of her Rule 37 Fee Petition and motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927. It is well settled that relief pursuant to a Rule 60(b) motion is an extraordinary remedy and is granted only in exceptional circumstances. McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 327 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing Dickerson v. Board of Educ., 32 F.3d 1114, 1116 (7th Cir. 1994)). Rule 60(b) allows a court "to address mistakes attributable to special circumstances and not merely to erroneous applications of law." Russell v. Delco Remy Div. of General Motors Corp., 51 F.3d 746, 749 (7th Cir. 1995). The rule authorizes a Court to grant relief from judgment for the specific reasons listed in the rule but does not authorize action in response to general pleas for relief. See Young v. Murphy, 161 F.R.D. 61, 62 (N.D. Ill. 1995). It is also not an appropriate vehicle for addressing simple legal error, for rehashing old arguments, or for presenting arguments that should have been raised before the court made its decision. Russell, 51 F.3d at 749; Rutledge v. United States, 230 F.3d 1041, 1052 (7th Cir. 2000); Young, 161 F.R.D. at 62; In re Oil Spill by "Amoco Cadiz," 794 F. Supp. 261, 267 (N.D. Ill. 1992), aff'd, 4 F.3d 997 (7th Cir. 1993) (Table).

First, Cook argues that this Court's order denying her Rule 37 request for fees was in error when it determined that one of IPC's responses to Cook's request to admit was in error, but was not of significant importance. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(c)(2) provides that the district court must order an award of reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, against a party who improperly fails to admit a Rule 36 request to admit. Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(c)(2). Rule 37 provides the following exceptions to the imposition of fees: (1) "the request was held objectionable under Rule 36(a)"; (2) "the admission was of no substantial importance"; (3) "the party failing to admit had a reasonable ground to believe that it might prevail on the matter"; and

(4) "there was other good reason for the failure to admit." Id.

Cook argues that the Court erred because defendant's closing argument "repeatedly attacked the quality of plaintiff's work performance, pointed to documents which defendant argued showed that plaintiff did not get along well with her co-workers, while the job performance evaluations showed exactly the opposite." Doc. 172, p. 2. While Cook's evaluations may be important, they did not directly evidence gender discrimination or retaliation against Cook. The rule specifically ...


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