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Farmer v. Town of Speedway

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

October 15, 2014

MELANIE FARMER, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF SPEEDWAY, INDIANA, Defendant

Page 843

For MELANIE FARMER, Plaintiff: Jason Porter Cleveland, John H. Haskin, JOHN H. HASKIN & ASSOCIATES, Indianapolis, IN.

For TOWN OF SPEEDWAY, INDIANA, Defendant: James S. Stephenson, Rosemary L. Borek, STEPHENSON MOROW & SEMLER, Indianapolis, IN.

Page 844

ORDER

Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Melanie Farmer sued Defendant Town of Speedway, Indiana (" Town of Speedway" ) after she was terminated from her position of Deputy Clerk-Treasurer. Ms. Farmer asserts claims against Town of Speedway under the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., the Family Medical Leave Act (" FMLA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. [Filing No. 25 at 5-6.] Presently pending before the Court is Town of Speedway's Motion for Summary Judgment on all of Ms. Farmer's claims. [Filing No. 27.] For the reasons explained below, Town of Speedway's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

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

Page 845

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, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (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 factfinder 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. Compliance with the Local Rules

The Court's review of the parties' briefs was made unnecessarily cumbersome due to both parties' failure to comply with the Local Rules when making factual assertions. Local Rule 56-1(e) provides:

A party must support each fact the party asserts in a brief with a citation to a discovery response, a deposition, an affidavit, or other admissible evidence. The evidence must be in the record or in an appendix to the brief. The citation must refer to a page or paragraph number or otherwise similarly specify where the relevant information can be found in the supporting evidence.

Local Rule 56-1(e) (emphasis added). Despite the clear language of this rule--which requires every factual assertion in a brief to be accompanied by a citation to record evidence--both parties cite evidence in their factual background section, but rarely, if ever, cite evidence supporting the factual assertions in the argument sections of their briefs. This is in clear violation of Local Rule 56-1(e), and it would be well within the Court's discretion to disregard all factual assertions not accompanied by the required citation. See Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 922 (7th Cir. 1994) (noting that the Seventh Circuit

Page 846

has " repeatedly upheld the strict enforcement of [the local] rules" ). But given that both parties failed to comply with the rule and the Court was able to locate the determinative evidence after considerable effort, the Court will excuse the parties' non-compliance in this instance.

The Court also notes that the parties' citation practices were each deficient in another manner. Turning first to Town of Speedway, not only did Town of Speedway rarely, if ever, cite evidence in the argument section of its brief, but its citation method in the factual section of the brief is inappropriate and unhelpful. Instead of including a citation at the end of each sentence, Town of Speedway includes an often lengthy string citation at the end of each paragraph. This too violates the requirements of Local Rule 56-1(e), as " each fact" must be accompanied by a citation to record evidence. Although excused in this instance, Town of Speedway should not follow this citation practice in the future, as it leaves the Court to guess as to which citation corresponds with which factual assertion.

Turning next to Ms. Farmer, her citation format does not comply with the requirements of this Court's Practices and Procedures.[1] Under the heading " Citation Form," the Court provides: " When citing documents that have been electronically filed, counsel should cite the docket number, the attachment number (if any), and the applicable .pdf page. For example, '[dkt. 25-2 at 5]' would refer to page five of attachment two to the item filed as docket number 25." Instead of following this citation format, Ms. Farmer only cites the deposition page or declaration paragraph-- e.g., " [Zishka Dep. pp. 12, 14-16]." This requires the Court to locate the document containing the cited information. To be sure, this would not be difficult for the Court to do if there was only one exhibit for each deposition. But each party submitted their own deposition excerpts, and Ms. Farmer cites pages of depositions that are not included in the excerpts she submitted. This made the review of her brief unnecessarily cumbersome, and could have been easily avoided. In the future, Ms. Farmer should ensure that she follows the Court's Practices and Procedures.

In sum, the parties are cautioned that compliance the Local Rules and this Court's Practices and Procedures is mandatory, and there can be serious consequences for non-compliance. See Waldridge, 24 F.3d at 922.

II.

Background

The parties each submit extensive evidence in support of their respective positions. Much of this evidence, however, is unnecessary for the Court to decide Town of Speedway's Motion for Summary Judgment. Therefore, the Court sets forth only the facts necessary for a basic understanding of the individuals and events relevant to this suit.

Ms. Farmer was hired in May 2002 as a Deputy Clerk-Treasurer in Town of Speedway, Indiana. [Filing No. 31-2 at 2.] She was initially assigned the job of Payroll Administrator/HR Coordinator. [Filing No. 28-21 at 11.] During Ms. Farmer's employment, Sharon Zishka was the Clerk-Treasurer--which is an elected position, see Ind. Code ยง 36-5-6-4--and Ms. Farmer's direct supervisor. [Filing No. 26 at 2; Filing No. ...


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