United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
C. COGGINS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendant's motion to reconsider the
Court's Order, ECF No. 55, adopting in part and declining
to adopt in part the Report and Recommendation of the United
States Magistrate Judge, ECF No. 48. ECF No. 59. Plaintiff
filed a response in opposition and Defendant filed a reply.
ECF Nos. 62, 63. Having carefully considered the motions, the
response, the record, and the applicable law, it is the
judgment of the Court that Defendant's motion is denied.
States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett issued a Report
recommending Defendant's motion for summary judgment be
granted. ECF No. 48. Plaintiff filed objections and a hearing
was held on July 13, 2018. ECF No. 54. On August 9, 2018,
this Court entered an Order adopting in part and declining to
adopt in part the recommendation of the Report; the Court
granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant with respect
to all claims except for Plaintiff's retaliation claim.
ECF No. 55.
interlocutory order is subject to reconsideration at any time
prior to the entry of a final judgment.”
Fayetteville Investors v. Commercial Builders, Inc.,
936 F.2d 1462, 1469 (4th Cir. 1991); see Fed. R.
Civ. P. 54(b) (“[A]ny order . . . that adjudicates
fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of
fewer than all the parties . . . may be revised at any time
before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims
and all the parties' rights and liabilities.”).
While the precise standard governing motions to reconsider an
interlocutory order is unclear, the Fourth Circuit has stated
that Rule 54(b) motions are “not subject to the strict
standards applicable to motions for reconsideration of a
final judgment.” Am. Canoe Ass'n v. Murphy
Farms, Inc., 326 F.3d 505, 514 (4th Cir. 2003).
“Compared to motions to reconsider final
judgments pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, Rule 54(b)'s approach involves broader
flexibility to revise interlocutory orders before
final judgment as the litigation develops and new facts or
arguments come to light.” Carlson v. Boston
Scientific Corp., 856 F.3d 320, 325 (4th Cir. 2017)
“the discretion Rule 54(b) provides is not
limitless.” Id. “For instance, courts
have cabined revision pursuant to Rule 54(b) by treating
interlocutory rulings as law of the case.” Id.
“Thus, a court may revise an interlocutory order under
the same circumstances in which it may depart from law of the
case: (1) 'a subsequent trial produc[ing] substantially
different evidence'; (2) a change in applicable law; or
(3) clear error causing 'manifest injustice.'“
Id. (quoting Am. Canoe Ass'n, 326 F.3d
at 515). Motions to reconsider are not “opportunities
to rehash issues already ruled upon because a litigant is
displeased with the result.” R.E. Goodson Constr.
Co., Inc. v. Int'l Paper Co., No. 4:02-4184-RBH,
2006 WL 1677136, at *1 (D.S.C. June 14, 2006) (citing
Tran v. Tran, 166 F.Supp.2d 793, 798 (S.D.N.Y.
argues that this Court erred in finding Plaintiff's
allegations raised a genuine issue of material fact
sufficient to survive a motion for summary judgment with
respect to her retaliation claim. ECF No. 59 at 4-13.
Regarding Plaintiff's three-day suspension, Defendant
asserts that the lapse in time of two months and 29 days
between the protected activity and adverse action is too long
to establish a causal connection by temporal proximity alone
in light of the fact that Plaintiff provided no other
evidence that her suspension was motivated by her charge of
discrimination. The Court has ruled on this argument and
again finds that the time between Plaintiff's protected
activity and her suspension is not too long to foreclose a
finding that Plaintiff has established a causal
connection. See Pascual v. Lowe's Hone
Centers, Inc., 193 Fed.Appx. 229 (4th Cir. 2006)
(holding that the plaintiff had failed to establish a causal
connection by temporal proximity alone when “at least
three or four months” separated the claims protected
activities and the termination of the plaintiff's
Court takes this opportunity to clarify the portion of its
Order upon which Defendant seems to most heavily rely. The
Court stated that “Plaintiff has provided no rebuttal
for her suspension”; accordingly, Defendant contends
that the suspension cannot be used to establish temporal
proximity and, therefore, Plaintiff fails to establish a
causal connection by way of temporal proximity between her
protected activity and her termination, which occurred seven
months and 19 days apart. Upon review, the Court clarifies
that while Plaintiff did not offer a direct rebuttal to
Defendant's proffered legitimate non-retaliatory reason
for the suspension-that Plaintiff was insubordinate to the
Sheriff- it is clear from her arguments and the evidence in
the record that Plaintiff alleges she and the Sheriff had a
history of communications wherein Plaintiff complained about
other employees' behavior and questioned reprimands that
she had received. For example, she argued that she should not
have been given a written reprimand by her superior in 2015
by submitting a 67-page rebuttal letter that included details
of her co-workers' private lives and accusations of
dishonesty. The Sheriff responded by declining to adopt her
superior's recommendation that she be demoted and issued
identical written warnings to Plaintiff, Captain Robert B.
Burnish, and Sergeant Wayne Dubose. However, once Plaintiff
filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission and then engaged in similar behavior,
she received a suspension. The Court finds that these facts
are sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact as
argues that two intervening events break any potential causal
connection between Plaintiff's protected activity and her
termination. It contends that her conversation with the
Sheriff about missing the Sumter Fair and complaints from
other employees about her demeanor occurred after she filed
her Charge and had a direct bearing on the adverse employment
action. As explained above, Plaintiff's conversation with
the Sheriff does not serve to break the causal connection.
The Court further finds that the complaints from her
co-workers fail to break the causal connection between
Plaintiff's protected activity and the adverse employment
action. To the contrary, this evidence juxtaposed against
Plaintiff's testimony and the Reed affidavit create an
issue of fact and a credibility determination for the jury.
further contends that Plaintiff failed to rebut the proffered
reasons for her non-renewal. The Court has ruled on this
argument and again finds that Plaintiff offered lengthy
explanations for each of the proffered reasons given by the
Sheriff for her non-renewal; considering the totality of the
record, including Plaintiff's intervening suspension and
the standard of review for a motion for summary judgment,
Plaintiff has created a genuine issue of material as to
whether Defendant's proffered reasons for her non-renewal
are mere pretext. Accordingly, Defendant's Motion to
Reconsider is denied with respect to this argument.