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Tavares v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company of Rhode Island

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

November 29, 2016

ROGERIO S. TAVARES, Plaintiff,
v.
ENTERPREISE RENT-A-CAR COMPANY OF RHODE ISLAND, Defendant.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM E. SMITH, CHIEF JUDGE

         Magistrate Judge Patricia A. Sullivan filed a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) on June 16, 2016 (ECF No. 138), recommending that the Court GRANT Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 117) and DENY Defendant's Motion for Sanctions (ECF No. 119) as moot. After careful consideration of the R&R and the objection of Plaintiff, Rogerio Tavares (ECF No. 139), the Court hereby accepts, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the R&R for the reasons that follow. The relevant facts, procedural background, and analysis are fully set forth in the R&R. The Court limits its discussion and presents only those facts pertinent to Tavares's objection.[1] Additionally, Magistrate Judge Sullivan thoroughly explained the applicable legal framework, burdens of proof and production, and affirmative defenses in her recommendation and so this Court will not provide further explanation on those points here. (See R&R 21-23, ECF No. 138.)

         Magistrate Judge Sullivan read Tavares's pro se Complaint liberally and analyzed his six discrete claims as arising under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Specifically, she analyzed the claims under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, which protects against employment discrimination based on national origin, race, religion, and sex; 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a), which makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against employees for opposing any practice made unlawful by Title VII, or because the employee has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under Title VII; and 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111(8), 12112(a), which forbids a covered employer from discriminating against a person with a disability who can perform the essential functions of her job, with or without reasonable accommodations.

         In accordance with Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the R&R viewed all facts and drew all reasonable inferences in Tavares's favor. The R&R found that Defendants successfully demonstrated that there were no genuine issues of material fact and that Tavares failed to submit competent evidence to support the key elements of his claims. This Court reviews the R&R de novo.[2]

         As a preliminary matter, Tavares organizes his objection according to the factual findings with which he takes issue and uses his objection to re-argue each of his claims.[3] However, after thorough review and accounting for Tavares's pro se status, this Court finds that Tavares's objections are best addressed in the following order: (1) objections asserting that Magistrate Judge Sullivan's R&R did not view the evidence in the light most favorable to him; (2) objections asserting that Magistrate Judge Sullivan's “reliance on statements of other employees who witnessed some, but not all [Tavares's] complaints” constituted a credibility determination that was inappropriate at the summary judgment stage (Tavares's Obj. to the R&R 6, ECF No. 139); and (3) objections asserting that Magistrate Judge Sullivan improperly considered the effects of his mental illness and incorrectly relied on Wilson v. New York City Police Department[4] in assessing the legal sufficiency of his claims, in light of that illness.

         I. Magistrate Judge Sullivan Applied the Correct Legal Standard for a Motion for Summary Judgment.

         Tavares's primary argument is that Magistrate Judge Sullivan did not view all facts and draw all reasonable inferences in his favor, as required by Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Tavares repeatedly avers that “Plaintiff's version of the facts must be accepted, ” and that “[t]he only matter that should have been considered was whether the sworn statements and other statements provided by Plaintiff if they are taken as true and all favorable inferences are drawn from those facts could a reasonable jury find for Plaintiff.” (Tavares's Obj. to R&R 6, 7, ECF No. 139.) Tavares accuses Magistrate Judge Sullivan of ignoring this legal standard when she considered other record evidence contrary to Plaintiff's own testimony and version of events, arguing that she should have “simply accept[ed] Plaintiff's statements as true as required by law.” (Id., ECF No. 139.) In essence, Tavares argues that Magistrate Judge Sullivan improperly granted summary judgment because she considered record evidence other than Plaintiff's testimony. This argument reflects a misunderstanding of the standard applicable at the summary judgment stage.

         The requirement that a judge must take all facts and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor dictates how the judge must review the record evidence when reviewing a motion for summary judgment; it does not dictate what record evidence she may review. At the summary judgment stage, a judge must review all of the record evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).[5] Thus, the Court may find that “a particular piece of evidence standing alone was insufficiently probative to justify sending a case to the jury” without “undermin[ing] the doctrine that all evidence must be construed in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 261 n.2 (1986). This is precisely what Magistrate Judge Sullivan did in this case: after diligently reviewing all of the evidence before her, including statements from other employees and Enterprise personnel, she found that the particular pieces of evidence that Tavares presented were not sufficiently probative to warrant sending the case to a jury. Based on this review, Magistrate Judge Sullivan concluded that Tavares had not presented a genuine dispute as to any material fact for any of his claims.[6]

         Similarly, Tavares argues that Magistrate Judge Sullivan's failure to draw all inferences in his favor was “[c]ontrary to law.” (Tavares's Obj. to the R&R 9, ECF No. 139.) However, the fact that there are conceivable inferences that could be drawn in Plaintiff's favor does not mean that those inferences are “reasonable” enough to justify sending the case to the jury. Here, the inferences Tavares urges the Court to draw in his favor are simply not reasonable inferences in light of all the evidence.[7]

         II. Magistrate Judge Sullivan Did Not Make Impermissible Credibility Determinations.

         Tavares next argues that Magistrate Judge Sullivan made impermissible credibility determinations when she considered the statements of other employees and other evidence in the record, all of which contradicted Tavares's testimony. For example, Tavares states that “[t]here are many times that [Magistrate Judge Sullivan] describes the statements of other employees as though they are not disputed even though they disputed Plaintiff's testimony in whole or in part. Rather than simply accepting Plaintiff's statements as true as required by the law, [Magistrate Judge Sullivan] weighed the conflicting testimony of [Defendant's] witnesses in reaching [her] conclusion.” (Tavares's Obj. to R&R 7, ECF No. 139.) However, Tavares has mischaracterized the nature of Magistrate Judge Sullivan's findings and the bases of her recommendation. Where Magistrate Judge Sullivan credited evidence that was contrary to Tavares's testimony, she explained that Tavares had offered no evidence to support his testimony and that the record evidence neither supported nor verified Tavares's version of events. (See R&R 30, ECF No. 138.)[8]

         At the summary judgment stage, the non-movant bears the burden of identifying some evidence in the record indicating that there are genuine issues of material fact in dispute. See Curl v. Int'l Bus. Machs. Corp., 517 F.2d 212, 214 (5th Cir. 1975) (“[T]he party opposing summary judgment must be able to point to some facts which may or will entitle him to judgment, or refute the proof of the moving party in some material portion, and . . . the opposing party may not merely recite the incantation, ‘Credibility, ' and have a trial on the hope that a jury may disbelieve factually uncontested proof.”) (quoting Rinieri v. Scanlon, 254 F.Supp. 469, 474 (S.D.N.Y. 1996)). Additionally, a statement, unsupported by record evidence, that the Defendant's witnesses are not credible is not sufficient to establish that there are material facts in dispute. See Trentadue v. Redmon, 619 F.3d 648, 652 (7th Cir. 2010). Here, Tavares simply has not produced any evidence to support his version of events, and as a result there are no material facts in dispute.

         III. Magistrate Judge Sullivan Did Not Improperly Consider the Effects of Tavares's Mental Illness in Assessing the Legal Sufficiency of His Claims.

         Tavares argues that Magistrate Judge Sullivan “tries to use Plaintiff's mental health illness as a basis for ignoring the legal requirement [to view facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff] and making credibility determinations, ” and goes on to argue that her reliance on Wilson v. New York City Police Department[9] was inappropriate because there are factual differences between the plaintiff in that case and Tavares. (Tavares's Obj. to the R&R 5, ECF No. 139.) We need not compare the facts of Wilson to the facts here, however, because nowhere in the R&R did Magistrate Judge Sullivan rely on Tavares's mental illness, or the holding in Wilson, to conclude that there were no genuine disputes of material fact. Rather, she merely ...


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