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Bowman v. Martin, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

May 9, 2018

MARTIN, INC., Defendant.


          VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS, United States District Judge

         This is an employment discrimination civil action filed by the Plaintiff, Carrie Bowman, against the Defendant, Martin, Inc., her former employer. (Doc. 1). The case was filed on May 3, 2017, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. (Doc. 1). The Complaint alleges that the Defendant terminated her, because of her age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634 (the “ADEA”).

         On June 30, 2017, the Western District court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), transferred the case here. (Doc. 25). The transfer was based on a forum selection clause in a Separation Notice and Separation Agreement (the “Agreement”), entered into by the parties in this case, which stated that “exclusive venue and jurisdiction for any disputes regarding the interpretation or the enforcement of this Separation Agreement is the state or federal courts sitting in Lauderdale County, Alabama.” (Doc. 11-1 at 2; doc. 11-1 at 6, ¶20).

         The case now comes before the Court on the Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment (the “Motion”). (Doc. 37). Because the Plaintiff was pro se at the time the Motion was filed, the Court entered a “Notice and Scheduling Order, ” which advised the Plaintiff (and all parties) that the Motion would be treated as a Motion for Summary Judgment, the nature of that type of motion, and the need for the Plaintiff to respond thereto. (Doc. 38). That Order also gave the Plaintiff a deadline of October 25, 2017, to file her response. (Doc. 38 at 2). On the date her response was due, the Plaintiff filed a “Reply” to the Motion, which, in part, asked that “this Court deny the Defendant's pending motion or in the alternative grant her an additional 30 days within which to retain an attorney licensed in Alabama or in the alternative allow her to voluntarily non-suit this matter.” (Doc. 40 at 3). On October 27, 2017, this Court entered a margin order which stated:

The Plaintiff's request is GRANTED ONLY AS FOLLOWS: The Plaintiff is allowed an additional 30 days in which file a response to the pending motion for judgment on the pleadings 37 (which the Court is treating as a motion for summary judgment) either through new counsel who has appeared on her behalf, or pro se. The new deadline for her response is November 27, 2017. The Defendant's reply to her response is due by December 11, 2017. In the alternative, the Plaintiff may file, at any time, a motion to voluntarily dismiss this matter.

(Doc. 41). The Plaintiff has filed nothing more, and, since this Court's last Order, no counsel has appeared on her behalf. For the reasons stated herein, the Motion will be GRANTED.


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 2265 (1986) (“[S]ummary judgment is proper if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”) (internal quotation marks omitted). The party requesting summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings or filings that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. at 2553. Once the moving party has met its burden, Rule 56(c) requires the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings in answering the movant.[1] Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. at 2553. By its own affidavits - or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file - it must designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.

         The underlying substantive law identifies which facts are material and which are irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d. 202 (1986). All reasonable doubts about the facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved in favor of the non-movant. Chapman v. AI Transport, 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000). Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510. A dispute is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. If the evidence presented by the non-movant to rebut the moving party's evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may still be granted. Id. at 249, 106 S.Ct. at 2511.

         How the movant may satisfy its initial evidentiary burden depends on whether that party bears the burden of proof on the given legal issues at trial. Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993). If the movant bears the burden of proof on the given issue or issues at trial, then it can only meet its burden on summary judgment by presenting affirmative evidence showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact - that is, facts that would entitle it to a directed verdict if not controverted at trial. Id. (citing United States v. Four Parcels of Real Property, 941 F.2d 1428, 1438 (11th Cir. 1991)). Once the moving party makes such an affirmative showing, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce “significant, probative evidence demonstrating the existence of a triable issue of fact.” Id. (emphasis added). For issues on which the movant does not bear the burden of proof at trial, it can satisfy its initial burden on summary judgment in either of two ways. Id. at 1115-16. First, the movant may simply show that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-movant's case on the particular issue at hand. Id. at 1116. In such an instance, the non-movant must rebut by either (1) showing that the record in fact contains supporting evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion, or (2) proffering evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary deficiency. Id. at 1116-17. When responding, the non-movant may no longer rest on mere allegations; instead, it must set forth evidence of specific facts. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 358, 116 S.Ct. 2174, 2183, 135 L.Ed.2d 606 (1996). The second method a movant in this position may use to discharge its burden is to provide affirmative evidence demonstrating that the non-moving party will be unable to prove its case at trial. Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1116. When this occurs, the non-movant must rebut by offering evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict at trial on the material fact sought to be negated. Id.

         II. FACTS

         Appearing in the Court file in support of the Motion To Transfer[2] is the Declaration of Ann Richey, which, in pertinent part, states:

1. My name is Ann Richey. I am over twenty-one years of age, I have personal knowledge of the information given in this Declaration, and I give this Declaration voluntarily and without coercion.
2. I am currently the Human Resources and Safety Manager for Martin Inc. (“Martin”) and work in Florence, Alabama at Martin's company headquarters. I have been employed by Martin since September 14, 1998.
* * *
5. In my job, I manage the human resources and safety functions for Martin, which includes oversight of [Townsend Door & Hardware's (“Townsend's”)] human resources and safety functions. Martin's human resources and safety departments are located at its Florence, Alabama headquarters. As Human Resource and Safety Manager, I am familiar with employee personnel records and am familiar with the human resource department's practices, procedures, and dealings with ...

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