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Hastings v. SMC Corporation of America

United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division

February 25, 2014

Mark D. Hastings, Plaintiff,
v.
SMC Corporation of America, Kelley Stacey, and Francisco Rivera, Defendants.

ORDER [1]

Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge

Plaintiff Mark Hastings brought this suit against his former employer, Defendant SMC Corporation of America (“SMC”), as well as SMC employees Kelley Stacey and Francisco Rivera. Mr. Hastings alleges that Defendants discriminated against him because of his race (Caucasian) and age (60), and also sets forth several state law claims. [Filing No. 1.] Presently pending before the Court is Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, seeking summary judgment on all of Mr. Hastings’ claims. [Filing No. 28.] In response to Defendants’ motion, Mr. Hastings abandoned all of his claims except for his age discrimination claim made pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”). [Filing No. 31, at ECF p. 2.] Accordingly, the individual Defendants, Kelley Stacey and Francisco Rivera are entitled to judgment in their favor. For the reasons that follow, the Court concludes that summary judgment in Defendants’ favor is warranted on Mr. Hastings’ ADEA claim as well. Therefore, Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. [Filing No. 28.]

I.

Procedural Standards and Compliance

A. Summary Judgment Standard of Review

A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant’s factual assertion can result in the movant’s fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Hampton v. Ford Motor Co., 561 F.3d 709, 713 (7th Cir. 2009). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome determinative. Harper v. Vigilant Ins. Co., 433 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 2005). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not be considered. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

On summary judgment, a party must show the Court what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party’s favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp., 512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. O’Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court need only consider the cited materials, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has “repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to scour every inch of the record for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them, ” Johnson, 325 F.3d at 898. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Ponsetti v. GE Pension Plan, 614 F.3d 684, 691 (7th Cir. 2010).

B. Mr. Hastings’ Response Brief Failed to Comply with the Local Rules

Before setting forth the factual background, the Court must first address Defendants’ argument regarding Mr. Hastings’ noncompliance with the Local Rules. Defendants rightly point out two ways in which Mr. Hastings’ brief failed to comply with the Local Rules. [Filing No. 35, at ECF p. 3 n. 1.] First, although Mr. Hastings properly included a “Statement of Material Facts in Dispute” section of his brief, the section is that only in name. Pursuant to Local Rule 56-1(b), this section must “identif[y] the potentially determinative facts and factual disputes that the party contends demonstrate a dispute of fact precluding summary judgment.” Local Rule 56-1(b). Mr. Hastings’ section, although properly titled, does not do this. Instead, it is a ten-page section setting forth all the facts of the case without identifying those that are potentially determinative. [See Filing No. 31, at ECF 2-11.] The consequence of Mr. Hastings’ noncompliance with Local Rule 56-1(b) is that he could well be found to concede Defendants’ version of events. See Smith v. Lanz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003) (“[F]ailure to respond by the nonmovant as mandated by the local rules results in an admission.”); see also Wackett v. City of Beaver Dam, 642 F.3d 578, 582 n.1 (7th Cir. 2011). And Defendants’ version of events demonstrates that they did not discriminate against Mr. Hastings due to his age and thus are entitled to summary judgment on his ADEA claim. See Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 922 (7th Cir. 1994) (noting that the Seventh Circuit has “repeatedly upheld the strict enforcement of these rules, sustaining the entry of summary judgment when the non-movant has failed to submit a factual statement in the form called for by the pertinent rule and thereby conceded the movant’s version of the facts.”).

Second, Defendants correctly maintain that Mr. Hastings failed to comply with Local Rule 56-1(e). [Filing No. 35, at ECF p. 3 n. 1.] This rule requires both parties to “support each fact the party asserts in a brief with a citation to a discovery response, a deposition, an affidavit, or other admissible evidence.” Local Rule 56-1(e) (emphasis added). The “Argument” section of Mr. Hastings’ brief contains numerous factual assertions, almost none of which are supported by citations to the record. This is a clear violation of Local Rule 56-1(e), and could result in the Court declining to consider these factual assertions.

Despite clear authority permitting it to do so, see, e.g., Waldridge, 24 F.3d at 922, the Court will not rest its decision solely on Mr. Hastings’ concession of Defendants’ version of the facts. However, in order to facilitate the Court’s review of the merits of Mr. Hastings’ claim, the Court attempted to match the factual assertions in the “Argument” section of Mr. Hastings’ brief with those from earlier in his brief where the factual assertions were supported with citations to the record. And to the extent possible, the Court identified the facts Mr. Hastings maintains preclude summary judgment.

II.

Background


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