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Walter v. JPS Aviation, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

January 10, 2017

KRISTEN WALTER
v.
JPS AVIATION, LLC

          HAYES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          S. MAURICE HICKS JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are: (1) two Motions for Summary Judgment by Defendant JPS Aviation, LLC (“JPS”) (Record Documents 17 and 19); (2) JPS's Motion to Strike Plaintiff Kristen Walter's (“Walter”) Memorandum in Opposition to the first Motion for Summary Judgment, original affidavit, and amended affidavit and Motion for Attorney's Fees (Record Document 24); and (3) JPS's Motion to Strike Portions of the Affidavit of Palmer Jarrell (Record Document 33), an affidavit attached to Walter's Response to JPS's Second Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons contained in the instant Memorandum Ruling, JPS's Motion to Strike Walter's Memorandum in Opposition, original affidavit, and amended affidavit and Motion for Attorney's Fees is DENIED IN PART and GRANTED IN PART. JPS's first Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. As granting the first Motion for Summary Judgment disposes of all claims and all parties to the instant action, the Court need not address JPS's other Motions (Record Documents 19 and 33), and as such these Motions are DENIED AS MOOT.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Defendant JPS Aviation, LLC (“JPS”) is a Louisiana limited liability company engaged in the business of conducting chartered flights out of Monroe, Louisiana. See Record Document 1 at ¶ 5. In February 2012, Walker began employment with JPS as a Charter Coordinator, a job that involved scheduling chartered flights and handling correspondence related to those flights. She later became an Aviation Sales Representative in April 2013. See id. at ¶¶ 10-13.

         Former Defendant Jason Bullock (“Bullock”) is the son of the owner of JPS, Paul Bullock. See id. at ¶ 25. In March 2013, Bullock became President/Chief Operations Officer of JPS as well as Walter's supervisor. See id. at ¶ 14. According to Walter, Bullock subjected Walter to “an ongoing campaign of sexual harassment . . . from the time that Bullock came to JPS.” Id. This campaign of unwelcome advances consisted of “inappropriate and unwelcome sexual advances and comments to and about Ms. Walter, and [Bullock] often commented on her looks in suggestive statements.” Id. In her Complaint, Walter details several instances of Bullock's actions, some of which occurred in front of other employees of JPS. See id. at ¶¶ 14-23.

         Walter alleges that in June 2013, she first reported Bullock's alleged sexual harassment to her immediate supervisor. See id. at ¶ 25. This supervisor reported the complaint to Paul Bullock, but Paul Bullock dismissed the complaint without taking any action. See id. Walter also reported the harassment to JPS's Director of Business Development, but again neither JPS nor anyone at the company took any action to remedy the situation. See id. at 26. Eventually, JPS terminated Walter's employment, allegedly in retaliation for her complaints of sexual harassment. See id. at ¶¶ 24-29. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued and mailed a notice of right to sue to Walter and her attorneys on March 3, 2015, and she filed this suit alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. on June 22, 2015. See Record Document 1-1 (the EEOC letter).

         On October 22, 2015, former Defendant Bullock filed a Motion to Dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that Walter had no federal employment claims against him as a matter of law. See Record Document 4. On May 18, 2016, Defendants filed their first Motion for Summary Judgment on the basis that the instant action is barred because Walter filed it more than 90 days after receipt of the EEOC letter. See Record Document 17. On June 6, 2016, Defendants filed their second Motion for Summary Judgment on the basis that there is no genuine issue of material fact on several elements of Walter's claims. See Record Document 19-3. On June 9, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion to Strike Plaintiff's untimely Memorandum in Opposition to their first Motion for Summary Judgment and its accompanying affidavit by Walter, as well as a Motion for Attorney's Fees for expenses incurred because of the submission of this affidavit. See Record Documents 22, 23, and 24. On July 27, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion to Strike Portions of the Affidavit of Palmer Jarrell, an affidavit attached to Walter's response to Defendants' second Motion for Summary Judgment. See Record Document 33.

         On September 22, 2016, this Court granted Bullock's Motion to Dismiss (Record Document 4), dismissing all of Walter's claims against Bullock with prejudice and leaving JPS as the sole Defendant. See Record Document 40. Thus, the Motions remaining before the Court are JPS's two Motions for Summary Judgment, two Motions to Strike, and the Motion for Attorney's Fees contained in the first Motion to Strike. See Record Documents 17, 19, 24, and 33.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         I. Legal Standards

         A. The Summary Judgment Standard

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs summary judgment. This rule provides that the court "shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Also, "a party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the motion by citing to particular parts of materials in the record." Fed R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). "If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may . . . grant summary judgment." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3).

         In a summary judgment motion, "a party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings . . . [and] affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal quotations and citations omitted). If the movant meets this initial burden, then the non-movant has the burden of going beyond the pleadings and designating specific facts that prove that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See id. at 325; see Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). A non-movant, however, cannot meet the burden of proving that a genuine issue of material fact exists by providing only "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, by conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by only a scintilla of evidence." Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. Additionally, in deciding a summary judgment motion, courts "resolve factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, but only when there is an actual controversy, that is when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts." Id. Courts "do not, however, in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts." Id.

         Affidavits are a permissible and common form of evidence that may be used to oppose a motion for summary judgment. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. To be competent summary judgment evidence, an affidavit “must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant . . . is competent to testify on the matters stated.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). However, a party may not manufacture a genuine issue of material fact by submitting an affidavit that impeaches sworn testimony without explanation. See S.W.S. Erectors v. Infax, Inc., 72 F.3d 489, 495 (5th Cir. 1996). If a party submits such a “sham” affidavit, the Court may properly disregard or strike such an affidavit, grant summary judgment for the movant, and award attorney's fees to the opponent of the submitting party. See id. at 495-96; see also Doe ex rel. Doe v. Dallas Indep. Sch. Dist., 220 F.3d 380, 385-86 (5th Cir. 2000); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(h).

         B. Prerequisites to ...


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