from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Texas
SMITH, WIENER, and ELROD, Circuit Judges.
JENNIFER WALKER ELROD, Circuit Judge
Warren challenges the district court's grant of summary
judgment on her defamation claim against Fannie Mae and its
evidentiary decision to exclude a statement of another Fannie
Mae employee. Because the district court did not err in
granting summary judgment or abuse its discretion by
excluding the statement, we AFFIRM.
Mae is a private, federally chartered corporation that
employs sales representatives to manage foreclosed properties
that it holds around the country. Warren was one such sales
representative. In 2013, Warren was one of four employees
fired after an internal investigation concluded that she had
violated the company's Code of Conduct and Conflicts of
Interest Policy by working with an outside broker who was not
approved by Fannie Mae and concealing it from her supervisor.
being fired, Warren sued Fannie Mae, raising claims of racial
discrimination under Title VII and Texas law, as well as
defamation under Texas law. The district court had federal
question jurisdiction over the Title VII claim and
supplemental jurisdiction over the Texas law
claims. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331,
1367. The district court dismissed the defamation claim on
procedural grounds based on the district court's reading
of an arbitration policy and granted summary judgment to
Fannie Mae on the discrimination claims.
first appeal, we affirmed the district court's summary
judgment on the discrimination claims but reversed and
remanded the procedural dismissal of the defamation claim.
Warren v. Fed. Nat'l Mortg. Ass'n, 733
Fed.Appx. 753, 760-66 (5th Cir. 2018) (unpublished)
("Warren I"). We also affirmed two of the
district court's evidentiary rulings, including, as
relevant to this appeal, the exclusion of the declaration of
Keitha Jefferson (another Fannie Mae employee). Id.
remand, the district court granted summary judgment to Fannie
Mae on Warren's defamation claim because Warren failed to
produce evidence that Fannie Mae had made any defamatory
statement related to Warren's receiving kickbacks, and,
to the extent that Fannie Mae had made any defamatory
statement related to Warren's concealing her actions,
Fannie Mae was entitled to a qualified privilege under Texas
law. As to receiving kickbacks, the district court held that
Warren's allegation that the investigative report defamed
her failed because the report, on its face, explicitly
concluded that she did not receive kickbacks. As to
concealing her actions, the district court held that, to
overcome Fannie Mae's qualified privilege, Warren was
required, but failed, to adduce evidence that Fannie Mae
either acted with malice or distributed the report to persons
without a valid interest. Moreover, the district court once
again concluded that Jefferson's declaration was
timely filed a second notice of appeal, challenging the
summary judgment and the exclusion of Jefferson's
declaration. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 18 U.S.C.
review a district court's grant of summary judgment
de novo. DeVoss v. Sw. Airlines Co., 903
F.3d 487, 490 (5th Cir. 2018). Summary judgment is
appropriate when "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). A fact is "material" if it would affect the
outcome of the case, and a dispute is "'genuine'
if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the non-moving party." Renwick v. PNK
Lake Charles, L.L.C., 901 F.3d 605, 611 (5th Cir. 2018)
(citation omitted). Evidence at the summary judgment stage
must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party, and reasonable inferences must be drawn in that
party's favor. Fisk Elec. Co. v. DQSI, L.L.C.,
894 F.3d 645, 650 (5th Cir. 2018).
review a district court's decision to exclude evidence in
connection with a summary judgment motion under the abuse of
discretion standard. Maurer v. Indep. Town, 870 F.3d
380, 383 (5th Cir. 2017). A district court abuses its
discretion when an evidentiary ruling is based on an
erroneous view of the law or a clearly erroneous assessment
of the evidence. Hinojosa v. Butler, 547 F.3d 285,
292 (5th Cir. 2008).
appeal, Warren challenges: (1) the summary judgment against
her on her defamation claim; and (2) the exclusion of