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Boston v. U.S. Steel

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 22, 2015

CARLA F. BOSTON, Plaintiff,
U.S. STEEL, Defendant.


DAVID R. HERNDON, District Judge.


Presently before the Court is defendant, U.S. Steel's motion, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59, to alter or amend the Court's April 28, 2015 order denying summary judgment (Doc. 30). The plaintiff has responded (Doc. 32) and U.S. Steel has replied (Doc. 33).


A. Authority

Count I of plaintiff's complaint seeks relief for retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000 et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. §621 et seq. Count II of plaintiff's complaint asserts a common law claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress ("IIED"). On April 28, 2015, the Court denied U.S. Steel's motion for summary judgment as to both counts. U.S. Steel now asks the Court to alter or amend that ruling in accord with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). Plaintiff objects, noting that Rule 59(e) is reserved for altering or amending a judgment.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide two ways in which a party may seek reconsideration of the merits of an order of the Court, namely, Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) provides a mechanism for altering or amending judgment and Rule 60(b) permits motions for relief from a final judgment or order, but both of these mechanisms are inapplicable to interlocutory orders. The denial of summary judgment is an interlocutory order. See Whitford v. Boglino, 63 F.3d 527, 530 (7th Cir. 1995). Thus, the above rules are not the appropriate vehicle for obtaining the relief sought by U.S. Steel.

This does not mean, however, that the Court is without authority to consider U.S. Steel's motion. It is well established that district courts have the authority to review interlocutory orders. Rule 54(b), inherent authority, and common law inform the Court's ability to review such non-final orders. See e.g., United States v. Terrell, 2015 WL 104668, 2 (N.D. Ill. March 6, 2015) (Dow, Jr. J.); Hensler v. City of O'Fallon, Ill., 2012 WL 293401, *5 (S.D. Ill. Jan. 31, 2012) (Herndon, C.J.). The Seventh Circuit has discussed the role of such motions to reconsider:

A motion for reconsideration performs a valuable function where the Court has patently misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the Court by the parties, or has made an error not of reasoning but of apprehension. A further basis for a motion to reconsider would be a controlling or significant change in the law or facts since the submission of the issue to the Court.

Bank of Waunakee v. Rochester Cheese Sales, Inc., 906 F.2d 1185, 1191 (7th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted).

The law of the case doctrine governs whether reconsideration of a previous ruling in the same case is appropriate. See Santamarina v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 466 F.3d 570, 571-72 (7th Cir. 2006). The law of the case doctrine is a discretionary doctrine; authorizing such reconsideration provided a "compelling reason, such as a change in, or clarification of, law that makes clear that the earlier ruling was erroneous." Id. at 572 ( citing Agostini v. Felton, 521 U.S. 203, 236, 117 S.Ct. 1997, 138 L.Ed.2d 391 (1997); Christianson v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 486 U.S. 800, 816-17, 108 S.Ct. 2166, 100 L.Ed.2d 811 (1988); Brengettcy v. Horton, 423 F.3d 674, 680 (7th Cir. 2005); Williams v. Comm'r, 1 F.3d 502, 503 (7th Cir. 1993); McMasters v. United States, 260 F.3d 814, 818 (7th Cir. 2001)).

Considering the above, the Court finds that reconsideration of its order denying summary judgment on both counts of the plaintiff's complaint is appropriate.

B. Count I - Retaliation Under Title VII

In order to survive U.S. Steel's motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff must provide evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that the protected conduct (the 2010 EEOC Charge) was a "substantial" or "motivating" factor in her disqualification from Ironworks in January 2012. See Patton v. Indianapolis Public School Bd., 276 F.3d 334, 340 (7th Cir. 2002). In concluding that the plaintiff had presented such evidence, the Court relied on testimony relating to the plaintiff's interactions with Marcia Graham. Marcia Graham was the plaintiff's co-worker and was the employee tasked with training the plaintiff. Marcia Graham, however, was not the person who made the decision to disqualify the plaintiff from the Ironworks Position.[1] Accordingly, the evidence ...

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