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Hillmann v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 4, 2014


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For Robert P Hillman, Plaintiff: Kathryn Margaret Reidy, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Kathryn M. Reidy, Bayview, ID; Brian M. Ozog, Stephen P. Carponelli, Carponelli & Krug, P.C., Chicago, IL; Byron Doyle Knight, Elizabeth Ann Knight, Jeanne M. Anderson, Knight, Hoppe, Kurnik & Knight LLC, Rosemont, IL.

For City of Chicago, a municipal Corporation, Defendant: Naomi Ann Avendano, LEAD ATTORNEY, Deja C. Nave, City of Chicago (30 N LS), Chicago, IL; Mara Stacy Georges, City of Chicago Department of law, Chicago, IL; Melanie Patrick Neely, City of Chicago, Law Department, Corporation Counsel, Chicago, IL; Valerie Depies Harper, City of Chicago, Law Department, Chicago, IL.

For Local 1001 of the Laborers' International Union of North America, Defendant: Patrick Edward Deady, LEAD ATTORNEY, Limo T. Cherian, Matthew James Cleveland, Hogan Marren, Ltd., Chicago, IL.

For Jack Drumgould, deponent: Raymond P. Garza, LEAD ATTORNEY, Attorney at Law, Olympia Fields, IL.

For John Sullivan, deponent: Cynthia Louise Giacchetti, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of Cynthia Giacchetti, Chicago, IL.

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Rubèn Castillo, Chief United States District Judge.

In 2004, Plaintiff Robert P. Hillmann filed this action against his former employer, the City of Chicago, alleging that his termination was illegal on various grounds. After a protracted history, this Court presided over a jury trial in April 2013. The jury returned a verdict in Defendant's favor on all charges except Plaintiff's claim of retaliatory discharge under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act, 820 Ill.Comp.Stat. 305/1 et seq., on which the jury returned a verdict in Plaintiff's favor. The jury assessed damages of two million dollars. Plaintiff's claim of retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., was before the bench at trial; on March 31, 2014, the Court issued an opinion granting judgment in Defendant's favor on that claim and ruling on various post-trial motions. (R. 539, Mem. Op. & Order); Hillmann v. City of Chicago, No. 04 C 6671, __ F.Supp.2d __, 14 F.Supp.3d 1152, 2014 WL 1613921 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 31, 2014). Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of the Court's ruling on Defendant's motion for remittitur.

This Court assumed responsibility for this lawsuit after the death of its dear colleague, William J. Hibbler. This opinion is the Court's third and hopefully final opinion in this delayed litigation, which has been tried twice before a jury. The Court's previous opinion thoroughly laid out the facts of the case and its extensive procedural history. For the sake of judicial economy, the Court assumes familiarity with those facts and does not repeat them here except as directly pertinent to the issue at hand.

Plaintiff began working for the Chicago Park District in June 1973 as a park attendant. After approximately five and a half years, he took a job in the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation, where he continued to work until he was terminated in July 2002 in retaliation for exercising his rights under the Workers' Compensation Act. At the trial, Professor Larry DeBrock testified as an expert witness. DeBrock performed an analysis of Plaintiff's pension loss, and he testified that if Plaintiff had retired at age 50, the present value of his lost pension benefits would be approximately $1.3 million. If Plaintiff retired at age 55, the present value of his lost pension benefits would be around $1.2 million. Jane Tessaro also testified about Plaintiff's pension loss. Tessaro was the manager of the benefits department at the Municipal Employees Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago (the " Pension Fund" or the " Fund" ), the pension

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fund for some City workers. Tessaro testified that when Plaintiff was terminated, he had 21 years of pension credit in the Fund, which would have enabled him to start collecting benefits at age 55.

In September 2005, Plaintiff withdrew all of his pension contributions, which amounted to $87,192.95. He testified that he needed the money to pay bills after he was terminated. Once an employee receives a refund of his pension contributions from the Fund, he forfeits all future pension benefits. Tessaro testified that, given Plaintiff's termination on July 31, 2002, if Plaintiff had not withdrawn money from his account, he would have received $2,091.00 per month beginning at age 55. If he had not been terminated and had instead continued to work at his same salary until age 55, he would have received a pension of $3,507.00 per month beginning at age 55.

Following the trial, Defendant moved pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 for the Court to reduce the jury's two-million-dollar award to $15,000.00. (R. 515, Def.'s Mot. Alter J.) Because Plaintiff failed to respond to Defendant's motion, the Court assumed that he agreed with any offset calculations and found that he had waived any objection. Hillmann, 2014 WL 1613921, at *42. The Court set off the $1.2 million Plaintiff had already received or would receive as a result of his worker's compensation award and reduced the damages for pain and suffering so that Plaintiff's remitted award totaled $400,000.00. Id. at *42-*43. The Court gave Plaintiff the option of accepting the remittitur or requesting an evidentiary hearing as to damages. Id. at *43.

Plaintiff now contends that he thought briefing on the issue of damages was suspended until the Court ruled on Defendant's motion for a new trial, and he asks the Court to reconsider its ruling on Defendant's motion for remittitur with the benefit of ...

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