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Montgomery v. Medstar Montgomery Medical Center

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 3, 2018




         Pending in this employment discrimination case is Plaintiff Tyanna Montgomery (“Montgomery”)'s Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's Order Granting Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF Nos. 40, 43. The motion is fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the reasons that follow, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion.

         I. Background

         Montgomery, an African American woman, worked at Medstar Montgomery Medical Center (“Medstar”) as a Security Officer from August 2010 until her termination on April 17, 2017. ECF No. 29-1 at 9; ECF No. 29-2 at 106. Medstar contends that her termination was due to job performance issues (ECF No. 29-1 at 8), while Montgomery maintains that Medstar discriminated against her and terminated her in retaliation. ECF No. 35 at 1.[1]

         Security Officers at Medstar were expected to “effectively resolve confrontation situations, ” maintain order on the Medstar premises, and assist Medstar visitors and patients. ECF No. 29-2 at 12, 71. According to written disciplinary actions, Montgomery failed to meet those expectations. Specifically, Montgomery had a “negative demeanor” and regularly arrived at work late. ECF No. 29-2 at 85. Montgomery concedes that she often was tardy, but argues that she had “no unexcused absence or tardiness within approximately nine months prior to her termination.” ECF No. 43 at 9. In support, Montgomery cites to her 2017 mid-year review, which states that she had “improved in her tardiness.” ECF No. 35-2 at 37. Furthermore, Montgomery argues that when Medstar disciplined her for her demeanor, the discipline itself was motivated by race and gender. ECF No. 22 ¶¶ 241, 271, 301.[2]

         Between June 2016 and April 2017, Medstar disciplined Montgomery for failing to greet people at the front desk (ECF No. 29-2 at 85); calling a co-worker a “Bitch” (id.); not pursuing an escaping patient when a senior officer also did not pursue the patient (ECF No. 29-2 at 99); and being “cold” to a visitor looking for lost keys. ECF No. 29-2 at 106. Montgomery asserts that this last incident, which was the precipitating event for her termination, never occurred. ECF No. 43 at 7. Montgomery contrasts these disciplinary actions with previous annual evaluations that rated her as a “key contributor, ” Medstar's designation for average performances. ECF No. 35-2 at 2-33.[3]

         Montgomery also contends that Medstar acted in a discriminatory manner by failing to discipline appropriately a volunteer employee that had “assaulted” Montgomery (ECF No. 29-2 at 18); reassigning Montgomery from the front lobby to another location for a month (id. at 80); demoting Montgomery from the Lead position and not compensating her when she did work as a Lead (ECF No. 22 ¶¶ 69, 103);[4] telling Montgomery to “get more heart” (ECF No. 29-2 at 82); yelling at Montgomery when the supervisor said he was tired of her “damn” shift that thought it could “do whatever the fuck” it wants (id.); posting an unenforced, new uniform policy that would only affect Montgomery (ECF No. 22 ¶ 142); and implying that Montgomery did not know anything because she was a black woman, with accompanying stereotypical gestures (id. ¶ 153).

         After exhausting administrative remedies, Montgomery filed suit. ECF No. 1. Medstar moved for summary judgment, which the Court granted after considering Montgomery's response. ECF Nos. 32, 37-38. The Court reasoned that Montgomery had suffered a singular adverse employment action-termination-that was based on legitimate and non-discriminatory grounds arising from her documented performance issues. ECF No. 37 at 10-13 (discrimination); id. at 15-16 (retaliation).

         One week after the Court granted summary judgment in Medstar's favor, Montgomery's counsel was disbarred. ECF No. 40-1. The Court does not know why counsel was disbarred, although Montgomery suggests that it was due to medical issues. ECF No. 45 at 2 n.1; see also ECF No. 31 at 1 (former counsel stating that a filing was delayed “due to health issues and subsequent case management concerns”).

         Twenty-eight days after the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Medstar on all claims, Montgomery moved for reconsideration, arguing that her former counsel mishandled her case. ECF No. 40. The Court granted Montgomery six weeks to retain new counsel and supplement the motion. ECF No. 41. Montgomery's new counsel has so supplemented (ECF No. 43), and the motion is ripe for resolution.

         II. Standard of Review

         A motion for reconsideration filed within 28 days of the underlying order is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). See Katyle v. Penn. Nat. Gaming, Inc., 637 F.3d 462, 471 n.4 (4th Cir. 2011). Courts recognize three limited grounds for granting a motion for reconsideration pursuant to Rule 59(e): (1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law, (2) to account for new evidence not previously available, or (3) to correct clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice. See United States ex rel. Becker v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 305 F.3d 284, 290 (4th Cir. 2002) (citing Pacific Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat'l Fire Ins. Co., 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998)), cert. denied, 538 U.S. 1012 (2003). A Rule 59(e) motion “may not be used to re-litigate old matters, or to raise arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the entry of judgment.” Pacific Ins. Co., 148 F.3d at 403 (quoting 11 Wright, et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 2810.1, at 127-28 (2d ed. 1995)). Where a party presents newly discovered evidence in support of its Rule 59(e) motion, the party “must produce a legitimate justification for not presenting the evidence during the earlier proceeding.” Pacific Ins. Co., 148 F.3d at 403 (quoting Small v. Hunt, 98 F.3d 789, 798 (4th Cir. 1996) (internal marks omitted). Likewise, before considering the merits of “arguments that were not presented before judgment, ” the court must first be satisfied that the party was justified in not presenting such arguments previously. Robinson v. Wix Filtration Corp., LLC, 599 F.3d 403, 410 n.9 (4th Cir. 2010). “In general, ‘reconsideration of a judgment after its entry is an extraordinary remedy which should be used sparingly.'” Pacific Ins. Co., 148 F.3d at 403 (quoting Wright, et al., supra, § 2810.1, at 124).

         III. Analysis

         According to Montgomery, it would be manifestly unjust to grant summary judgment when her prior counsel effectively denied her the “opportunity to actively and meaningfully participate in the case.” ECF No. 43 at 4. Courts are typically reluctant to grant reconsideration on account of an attorney's poor performance or neglect of the case. See Loren Data Corp. v. GXS, Inc., No. DKC 10-3474, 2011 WL 3946484, at *3 (D. Md. Aug. 30, 2011), aff'd, 501 Fed.Appx. 275, 286 (4th Cir. 2012) (denying reconsideration under Rule 59(e) where conduct of “prior attorney may have fallen below professional standards”); In re Fisherman's Wharf Fillet, Inc., 83 F.Supp.2d 651, 658 (E.D. Va. 1999) (denying reconsideration under Rule 59(e) where attorney failed to respond to request for admissions and dispositive motions); McCray v. Technicolor Video Cassette of Michigan, Inc., No. 2:12-CV-02088-JPM, 2013 WL 1338141, at *2-3 (W.D. Tenn. Mar. 29, 2013) (denying reconsideration under Rule 59(e) where attorney failed to participate in discovery due to medical concerns); Jacobs v. Elec. Data Sys. ...

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