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Brewer v. Leprino Foods Co., Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 15, 2019

Brandy Brewer, Plaintiff,
v.
Leprino Foods Company, Inc., Defendant.

          ORDER

          HONORABLE STEPHEN M. MCNAMEE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Brandy Brewer's (“Brewer”) Motion for New Trial. (Doc. 120.) Defendant Leprino Foods Company, Inc. (“Leprino”) filed its Opposition (Doc. 127), and Brewer filed her Reply in support (Doc. 129). After review and consideration, the Court will deny Brewer's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On April 25, 2016, Brewer filed her Complaint, alleging four causes of action against her former employer, Leprino: (1) wrongful discharge in violation of the public policies articulated in California Labor Code § 1102.5, California Government Code § 12940, and the Family and Medical Leave Act; (2) gender discrimination in violation of Cal. Gov't Code § 12940(a); (3) failure to take reasonable steps to prevent discrimination in the workplace in violation of Cal. Gov't Code § 12940(k); and (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 1 at 14, 17-19.)

         Leprino filed a motion for summary judgment on December 15, 2017. (Doc. 33.) The Court granted in part and denied in part Leprino's motion, dismissing Brewer's causes of action for wrongful discharge in violation of the public policy articulated in Cal. Labor Code § 1102.5 and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 36 at 16.) Then, in a November 13, 2018 Order, the Court granted Leprino's motion for summary judgment on the issue of punitive damages. (Doc. 44 at 15.)

         On February 6, 2019, a Final Pretrial Conference was held in this matter. (Doc. 76.) At the hearing, the Court ruled on the parties' motions in limine, including granting Leprino's Motion in Limine No. 2 to preclude evidence of an alleged romantic relationship between Leprino employees Jennifer Miranda (“Miranda”) and Oscar Martinez (“Martinez”). (Id. at 1-2.) In addition, the Court took under advisement Leprino's Motion in Limine No. 1 and ordered simultaneous supplemental briefing on the issue. (Id. at 2-3.) In ruling on Leprino's Motion in Limine No. 1, the Court found, inter alia, that Brewer failed to allege a cause of action for wrongful discharge in violation of the public policy embodied in Cal. Gov't Code § 12940(h). (Doc. 85 at 7.)

         A jury trial was held in this matter on April 1, 2019 through April 10, 2019. (Docs. 96-99, 101, 104-06.) The jury returned a verdict in favor of Leprino. (Docs. 106, 110.)

         Brewer filed the instant motion on May 9, 2019, moving for a new trial and requesting that the Court alter or amend its previous rulings. (Doc. 120.) The motion is now ripe for review.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD A. Motion for New Trial

         “The court may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the issues . . . after a jury trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1)(A). Although Rule 59 does not specify the grounds on which a new trial may be granted, “the court is bound by those grounds that have been historically recognized.” Molski v. M.J. Cable, Inc., 481 F.3d 724, 729 (9th Cir. 2007) (internal quotations and citation omitted). A court may order a new trial if “the verdict is contrary to the clear weight of the evidence, or is based upon evidence which is false, or to prevent, in the sound discretion of the trial court, a miscarriage of justice.” Silver Sage Partners, Ltd. v. City of Desert Hot Springs, 251 F.3d 814, 819 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal quotations and citation omitted). A new trial may also be warranted where erroneous evidentiary rulings “substantially prejudiced” a party. Ruvalcaba v. City of Los Angeles, 64 F.3d 1323, 1328 (9th Cir. 1995) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Further, a courts failure to provide adequate jury instructions may also provide a basis for a new trial unless the error was harmless. See Watson v. City of San Jose, 800 F.3d 1135, 1140-41 (9th Cir. 2015); see also Murphy v. City of Long Beach, 914 F.2d 183, 187 (9th Cir. 1990).

         In determining whether a new trial is warranted, “[t]he judge can weigh the evidence and assess the credibility of witnesses, and need not view the evidence from the perspective most favorable to the prevailing party.” Landes Const. Co. v. Royal Bank of Canada, 833 F.2d 1365, 1371 (9th Cir. 1987) (citation omitted). However, “a decent respect for the collective wisdom of the jury, and for the function entrusted to it in our system, certainly suggests that in most cases the judge should accept the findings of the jury, regardless of his own doubts in the matter.” Id. (internal quotations and citation omitted).

         B. Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment

         A court may alter, amend, or reconsider its previous judgment, including a grant of summary judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). See Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e); Sch. Dist. No. 1J, Multnomah Cty., Or. v. ACandS, Inc., et al., 5 F.3d 1255, 1263 (9th Cir. 1993). Under Rule 59(e), reconsideration is appropriate if: (1) there is an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the court is presented with newly discovered evidence; or (3) the court committed clear error and its decision was manifestly unjust. 389 Orange St. Partners v. Arnold, 179 F.3d 656, 665 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing Sch. Dist. No. 1J, Multnomah Cty., Or., 5 F.3d at 1263). Evidence is newly discovered if it was previously unknown or unavailable during the original proceeding. See S.E.C. v. Platforms Wireless Intern. Corp., 617 F.3d 1072, 1100 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Frederick S. Wyle Prof'l Corp. v. Texaco, Inc., 764 F.2d 604, 609 (9th Cir. 1985)).

         Motions for reconsideration are generally disfavored and should be granted only in rare circumstances. Defs. of Wildlife v. Browner, 909 F.Supp. 1342, 1351 (D. Ariz. 1995). Such motions should not be used to ask a court “‘to rethink what the court had already thought through - rightly or wrongly.'” Id. (citation omitted).

         A motion for reconsideration “may not be used to raise arguments or present evidence for the first time when they could reasonably have been raised earlier in litigation.” Kona Enters., Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th Cir. 2000) (emphasis in original) (citing 389 Orange St. Partners, 179 F.3d at 665). In addition, motions for reconsideration may not be used to relitigate old matters. Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471, 485 n.5 (2008) (citation omitted); Backlund v. Barnhart, 778 F.2d 1386, 1388 (9th Cir. 1985). Nor may a motion for reconsideration repeat any argument previously made in support of or in opposition to a motion. Motorola, Inc. v. J.B. Rodgers Mech. Contractors, Inc., 215 F.R.D. 581, 586 (D. Ariz. 2003). Mere disagreement with a previous order is an insufficient basis for reconsideration. See Bussie v. Boehner, No. CV 14-0127-PHX-RCB (DKD), 2014 WL 6630155, at *1 (D. Ariz. Nov. 21, 2014) (citing Leong v. Hilton Hotels Corp., 689 F.Supp. 1572, 1573 (D. Haw. 1988)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Pursuant to Rule 59(a) and (e), Brewer moves for a new trial or for the Court to alter or amend its previous Orders based upon the following: (1) the Court erred in dismissing Brewer's claims of wrongful discharge in violation of the public policies embodied in Cal. Labor Code § 1102.5 and Cal. Gov't Code § 12940(h) (“Brewer's Retaliation Claims”); (2) the Court erred in granting summary judgment on the issue of punitive damages; (3) the Court erred in precluding evidence of an alleged romantic relationship; (4) the Court erred in precluding as hearsay a prior inconsistent statement; (5) the Court erred in denying Brewer's request for a mistrial based upon Leprino's Golden Rule violation; and (6) the Court erred in denying Brewer's request for a same-sex gender discrimination jury instruction. (Doc. 120 at 5-15.) The Court addresses each ground in turn.

         A. Ground No. 1: Brewer's Retaliation Claims

         Pursuant to Rule 59(e), Brewer moves the Court to alter or amend its decision that dismissed Brewer's causes of action for wrongful discharge in violation of the public policies embodied in Cal. Labor Code § 1102.5 ...


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