United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
J. BRADY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a Motion for a New That Under Fed.R.Civ.P.
59 filed by Plaintiff Margaret Herster
("Herster" or "Plaintiff'). The Board of
Supervisors of Louisiana State University ("LSU" or
"Defendant") has filed an
Opposition. For the following reasons, the
Motion shall be denied.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
removal action, Herster asserted various Title VII and state
law claims against herformer employer, LSU. During the six
day jury trial, the Court granted several of the
Defendant's Rule 50 Motions resulting in the dismissal of
Plaintiffs Title VII sexual harassment/hostile work
environment claim, Title VII disparate pay claim based upon
gender, benefits claim, and Louisiana state law whistleblower
claims. On December 12, 2016, the jury returned a verdict
finding in favor of the Defendant on Plaintiffs remaining
Title VII retaliation claim and Title VII retaliatory
harassment claim. On December 14, 2016, the Court entered a
Judgment in favor of the Defendant.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
provides that after a jury trial, a "court may, on
motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the issues ...
for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been
granted in an action at law in federal
court." Although Rule 59(a) does not provide the
specific grounds for new trial, the Fifth Circuit has
clarified that a new thai may be warranted if "the
verdict is against the weight of the evidence, the damages
awarded are excessive, the trial was unfair, or prejudicial
error was committed in its course."Ultimately, the
decision whether to grant a new trial is left to the sound
discretion of the trial judge, and "the court's
authority is broad."
requests that the Court grant a new trial for three reasons.
First, Plaintiff asserts that certain evidentiary rulings
made by the Court constituted plain error that prejudiced
her. Although not plainly stated, it appears that Herster is
challenging the Court's application of its pretrial
Ruling during trial, whereby she was
prohibited from introducing evidence of gender discrimination
and sexual harassment experienced by anyone but her at the
LSU School of Art and offering any evidence of harassment
committed by anyone but Rod Parker. In particular, Plaintiff
challenges the inadmissibility and required redaction of
certain information included in her original and amended
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Charge
("EEOC" Charge) and internal complaint to LSU's
Human Resource Department, as well as the limitations placed
upon her own testimony at trial. After reviewing the
jurisprudence relied upon by Plaintiff, the Court finds that
the cases do not support her position. Therefore, the Court
maintains its earlier stance that Herster failed to show how
evidence of harassment of others or by anyone other than Rod
Parker was "more than tangentially related" to her
own claims because she "did not set forth the particular
facts supporting the alleged harassment of
others;"therefore, the exclusion of such
evidence, including certain testimony, was proper.
Furthermore, the Court agrees with the Defendant that the
excluded content amounted to hearsay.
also contends that the Court erroneously excluded the
introduction of 2003 criminal arrest records of Rod Parker
("Parker") or any related testimony at trial. The
Court disagrees and finds the records and related testimony
were properly excluded as unfairly prejudicial, substantially
outweighing any probative value they may have had. Moreover,
the record reflects that Herster was able to explore the
extent of LSU's investigation of her complaints at trial
through Jennifer Normand. To the extent Plaintiff sought to
introduce these decade-old criminal arrest records as
evidence of Parker's character to prove that he sexually
harassed or discriminated against her, it would have been
prohibited under Rule 404(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of
Evidence. Hence, the Court finds it properly excluded the
2003 criminal arrest records and related testimony.
Herster argues that the Court committed clear error and
prejudiced her by refusing to provide a "Cat's
Paw" jury instruction. The Court disagrees as Plaintiff
failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact
existed that would require such a jury instruction. The
Plaintiff also contends that the Court erred in its response
to a jury inquiry during deliberations. When asked, the Court
instructed the jury that that the course fee issue could not
be considered in deciding Plaintiffs Title VII retaliation
claim. The Plaintiff has repeatedly attempted to blur all of
her separate claims together as one; hence, the Court is not
surprised that she is once again trying to do so here.
Plaintiffs Title VII gender based retaliation claims and her
state law whistleblower claims were separate and distinct
claims. Because the Court had previously granted a Rule 50(a)
Motion on Herster's whistleblower claims, the course fee
issue had no bearing on her Title VII retaliation claims.
Therefore, the Court finds that Herster is not entitled to a
Motion for New Trial on these grounds.
close of Plaintiffs case, the Defendant moved for Rule 50(a)
dismissal on several of her claims after articulating their
evidentiary deficiencies. The Court ultimately granted
several of the Defendant's Motions. Herster now asserts
that she is entitled to a new trial because
the Court refused to allow her to cure the perceived
evidentiary deficiencies prior to the dismissal of her
claims. Initially, the Court points out that
Plaintiff never requested leave to reopen her case in order
to present additional evidence to cure the evidentiary
deficiencies identified in the Defendant's Motions.
Additionally, the jurisprudence Plaintiff relies upon in
support of her argument is also inapplicable here. This
Court, unlike the district court under review in
Echeverria v. Chevrvn USA Inc.,  did not grant any of
the Rule 50(a) Motions until Herster had rested or had been
"fully heard" on her case. As for the procedural
issue requiring that a Rule 50(a) motion precede the filing
of a Rule 50(b) motion discussed in Bohrer v. Hanes
Corp.it lends nothing to Herster's
argument. Accordingly, the Court finds that Plaintiff is not
entitled to a new trial on this ground.
foregoing reasons, the Court hereby DENIES Plaintiff Margaret
Herster's Motion for New Trial.