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Stanford v. Potomac Electric Power Co.

June 21, 2006

CALVINO STANFORD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
POTOMAC ELECTRIC POWER COMPANY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Currently before the Court is the plaintiff's Motion for Relief from Judgment ("Pl.'s Mot.") [D.E. # 22] pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6) and 59(e). The plaintiff seeks relief from the judgment entered by the Court on September 30, 2005, which dismissed his intentional infliction of emotional distress and hostile work environment claims. For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny the plaintiff's request for relief from the Court's judgment with respect to his intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, grant the plaintiff relief from the judgment with respect to his hostile work environment claim, dismiss his hostile work environment claim, and deny the defendant's request for Rule 11 sanctions based on the filing of the plaintiff's motion that is the subject of this opinion.

I. Background

On January 20, 2006, the plaintiff, Calvino Stanford, filed a Motion for Relief from Judgment pursuant to Rules 59(e) and 60(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Pl's Mot. at 1.*fn1 The motion was made in response to this Court's September 30, 2005, Memorandum Opinion and Order dismissing the plaintiff's intentional infliction of emotional distress and hostile work environment claims against defendant Potomac Electric Power Company ("PEPCO"). See Stanford v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 394 F. Supp. 2d 81 (D.D.C. 2005).

With respect to the plaintiff's claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, the Court found that the plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because there was no indication of intentional, outrageous conduct by PEPCO. Id. at 91-92. Regarding the plaintiff's claim that he was subjected to a hostile work environment under the Occupational Health and Safety Act ("OSHA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 651-78 (2000), the Court concluded that the plaintiff failed "to state a claim upon which relief may be granted because there is no private cause of action under OSHA." Id. at 90 n.10. However, the Court did not consider the hostile work environment claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (2000).*fn2

II. Standard of Review

Rule 60(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that "[o]n motion and upon such terms as are just, the court may relieve a party or a party's legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for . . . any other reason justifying relief from the operation of judgment." Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6). Despite its expansive nature, courts have placed certain restrictions on the applicability of Rule 60(b)(6). A determination of whether relief from judgment should be granted does not require the Court to clarify its original ruling. See Taylor v. Blakey, No. 03-0173, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6859, at *11 (D.D.C. February 6, 2006). Instead, the Court may only assess whether there exist extraordinary circumstances that merit granting relief from the judgment. See Good Luck Nursing Home, Inc. v. Harris, 636 F.2d 572, 577 n.3 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (citations omitted). Furthermore, in order "to preserve 'the delicate balance between the sanctity of final judgments . . . and the incessant command of the court's conscience that justice be done in light of all the facts[,]'" the Court should only grant relief from a judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b)(6) sparingly. Id. at 577 (quoting Bankers Mortgage Co. v. United States, 423 F.2d 73, 77 (5th Cir. 1970)).

Extraordinary circumstances generally do not include instances where the moving party failed to present "known facts helpful to its cause when it had the chance[.]" Good Luck Nursing Home, Inc., 636 F.2d at 577 (citing Couch v. Travelers Ins. Co., 551 F.2d 958, 959 (5th Cir. 1977)). However, where the moving party presents previously undisclosed facts "so central to the litigation that [they] show[] the initial judgment to have been manifestly unjust[,]" there are sufficient extraordinary circumstances to warrant relief from a judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b)(6). Johnson v. Ashcroft, 223 F. Supp. 2d 116, 118 (D.D.C. 2002) (citing Good Luck Nursing Home, Inc., 636 F.2d at 577)). The Court must therefore assess, without clarifying its original determination, whether the plaintiff has demonstrated circumstances sufficiently extraordinary to justify relief from its judgment, which dismissed his intentional infliction of emotional distress and hostile work environment claims.

III. Analysis

1. The Plaintiff's Claim for Relief From Judgment Pursuant to Rule 60(b)(6)

A. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

The plaintiff argues that the Court's dismissal of his intentional infliction of emotional distress claim is "unjust." Pl.'s Mot. at 1. According to the plaintiff, the Court's ruling was unjust because the Court did not consider "empirical data" of deaths associated with PEPCO's failure to properly protect and train its employees.*fn3 Id. at 2. The plaintiff asserts that since "[PEPCO] knew of all of these deaths when it ordered [him] to go in the manhole without proper insulated clothes or proper training[,]" its actions were clearly intentional and outrageous enough, when combined with its knowledge of OSHA safety regulations relating to electrical power,*fn4 to survive PEPCO's dismissal motion. Id. The plaintiff also disputes the Court's finding that he could have refused his supervisor's order to enter the manhole. Id. at 3. He asserts that if he had disobeyed his supervisor's order to enter the manhole "he would have been subjected to a Decision Making Leave ("DML") for 18 months and then any additional infraction would have caused him to be terminated according to [PEPCO]'s policy[.]"*fn5 Id. In further support of his allegation that the Court's original ruling was unjust, the plaintiff has provided employment statistics, which he asserts demonstrate that if the plaintiff were to lose his job, it would be difficult for him to find another one because he is African-American.*fn6 Id.

On the other hand, PEPCO asserts that the newspaper articles proffered by the plaintiff "have no bearing on whether performing work in a manhole on one occasion is extreme and outrageous." Def.'s Opp'n at 4. PEPCO further asserts that the "Declaration of Eileen Appuglies" "accurately describes its disciplinary policies at the time, [but that] it sheds no light on [the p]laintiff or his particular circumstances." Id. Finally, PEPCO contends that the unemployment statistics proffered by the plaintiff are "plainly irrelevant." Id. Essentially, PEPCO opines that even with such evidence, the plaintiff still fails to state a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Id. at 3-4.

The Court will initially assess whether the plaintiff's new evidence, as it pertains to his intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, warrants relief pursuant to Rule 60(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. First, the plaintiff's evidence would normally not be considered when assessing whether there are any extraordinary circumstances warranting relief from the judgment, because the four newspaper articles, PEPCO's termination policies, and the unemployment statistics for the District of Columbia involve known facts that the plaintiff failed to proffer before the original determination. See Good Luck Nursing Home, Inc., 636 F.2d at 577. The Court must, therefore, determine whether this previously undisclosed evidence was ...


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