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O'Neal v. Cargill, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

February 8, 2017




         Plaintiff, Quinton O'Neal, filed a Motion for New Trial and in the Alternative Motion for Relief From a Judgment or Order, seeking reconsideration under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) or 60(b) of the final judgment dismissing with prejudice all of his claims against his former employer, defendant, Cargill, Inc. Record Doc. No. 36. The judgment was based on two orders: (1) on April 12, 2016, the court granted in part Cargill's motion to dismiss (which was converted to a motion for summary judgment) and dismissed the claims of race discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment brought by O'Neal, an African-American, under Title VII and the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law, Record Doc. No. 15; and (2) on December 21, 2016, the court denied plaintiff's motion to continue the trial date and granted Cargill's unopposed motion for summary judgment, dismissing O'Neal's remaining claims of race discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Record Doc. No. 33.

         Cargill filed a timely memorandum in opposition to O'Neal's motion for new trial. Record Doc. No. 38. Plaintiff received leave to file a reply memorandum. Record Doc. Nos. 40, 41, 42. Having considered the complaint, the record, the arguments of the parties and the applicable law, IT IS ORDERED that plaintiff's motion is DENIED, for the following reasons.


         O'Neal filed this action on December 31, 2015. A scheduling order was entered on April 6, 2016, setting a discovery deadline of December 12, 2016; a final pretrial conference on January 10, 2017; and a trial date of January 23, 2017. All pretrial motions were required to be filed and served in sufficient time to permit notice of submission no later than December 21, 2016. Record Doc. No. 14.

         Cargill filed a timely summary judgment motion on December 2, 2016 and noticed it for submission on December 21, 2016. Under Local Rule 7.5, plaintiff's opposition memorandum was due no later than December 13, 2016. He never filed an opposition or sought an extension of time to do so.

         Instead, three days after the opposition deadline, plaintiff moved on December 16, 2016 to continue the trial date and extend the already expired discovery deadline. Record Doc. No. 25. Because he did not include a supporting memorandum and a notice of submission as required by Local Rules 7.2 and 7.4, the Clerk marked the motion deficient, advised plaintiff's counsel that the deficiency must be cured within seven days, and terminated the motion pending correction of the deficiency.

         On December 20, 2016, Cargill received leave to file a supplemental memorandum in support of its summary judgment motion. Record Doc. Nos. 28, 31, 32. Cargill noted that O'Neal had not filed an opposition, that the deadline to do so had passed seven days earlier and that O'Neal had not requested an extension of time to file an opposition. Cargill stated that it opposed plaintiff's motion to continue and would file an opposition memorandum if he cured the deficiency and filed his motion properly.

         On December 21, 2016, the court ordered the Clerk to remove the deficiency and file O'Neal's motion to continue the trial. The court found that it did not need any memorandum in opposition to the motion and denied the motion because plaintiff had failed to show good cause to amend the court's scheduling order. Since O'Neal also sought more time to take discovery, the court construed the motion as also having been filed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). However, plaintiff presented no affidavits, declarations or specific facts, as required by Rule 56(d), to show that he needed more discovery in order to oppose defendant's summary judgment motion. The court therefore denied O'Neal's motion on that additional basis. Record Doc. No. 33.

         In the same order, the court granted defendant's unopposed summary judgment motion, finding that Cargill's statement of undisputed material facts was uncontroverted, the well-supported facts therein were deemed admitted and the competent summary judgment evidence established that (1) defendant had terminated O'Neal's employment for legitimate, non-discriminatory, non-retaliatory reasons and (2) there was no evidence of a racially hostile work environment. Id. The court entered judgment dismissing all of plaintiff's claims with prejudice the same day. Record Doc. No. 34.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Rule 59(e) Standards

         In his motion for new trial and in the alternative motion for relief from a judgment or order, O'Neal seeks reconsideration under Rule 59(e) or 60(b) of the court's denial of his motion to continue and grant of summary judgment to Cargill on his Section 1981 claims. Plaintiff filed his motion on the same day that judgment was entered. The court considers the motion under Rule 59(e), which provides that “[a] motion to alter or amend a judgment must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). The court does not consider the motion under Rule 60(b), which applies to motions filed after the Rule 59(e) deadline has passed. Steward v. City of New Orleans, 537 F. App'x 552, 554 (5th Cir. 2013); Harrington v. Runyon, 98 F.3d 1337, 1996 WL 556754, at *1 (5th Cir. 1996). Because O'Neal's motion fails to meet the Rule 59(e) standards, it would also fail under the stricter standards of Rule 60(b), if that rule applied. Steward, 537 F. App'x at 554; see In re Edwards, No. 17-10066, 2017 WL 367985, at *3 (5th Cir. Jan. 25, 2017), cert. denied sub nom. Edwards v. Davis, No. 16-7710, 2017 WL 374855 (U.S. Jan. 26, 2017) (citing Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 535 (2005)) (“To succeed on a Rule 60(b) motion, the movant must show: (1) that the motion be made within a reasonable time; and (2) extraordinary circumstances exist that justify the reopening of a final judgment.”) (emphasis added).

         District courts have broad discretion in deciding such motions. Johnson v. Diversicare Afton Oaks, LLC, 597 F.3d 673, 677 (5th Cir. 2010); McGillivray v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 360 F. App'x 533, 537 (5th Cir. 2010) ...

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