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Moses v. Howard University Hospital

July 1, 2008

VIJAYAKUMAR MOSES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HOWARD UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman United States District Judge

OPINION

Plaintiff Vijayakumar Moses brought this suit against his former employer, Howard University Hospital ("Howard"), alleging retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. CODE §§ 2-1401 et seq. ("DCHRA"). The case has been pending for some time and, on February 12, 2007, the Court granted Howard's motion for summary judgment on all claims except plaintiff's claim that he was unlawfully retaliated against when Howard terminated him in October 2000. The case is now before the Court on Howard's renewed motion for summary judgment which, for the reasons that follow, the Court will grant.*fn1

The Court will also deny plaintiff's motion to add an additional plaintiff and deny his request for a hearing.

I. BACKGROUND

On February 22, 1999, while still employed by Howard University Hospital, Mr. Moses filed a lawsuit against his then-employer. See Moses v. Howard University Hospital, Civil Action No. 99-0410 (D.D.C. filed Feb. 22, 1999). In that case, Mr. Moses alleged race and national origin discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII; race discrimination and retaliation in violation of the DCHRA; and age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq. ("ADEA"). On January 30, 2001, Judge Huvelle entered summary judgment for Howard on all of the claims in that case except Mr. Moses' ADEA claim. See Moses v. Howard University Hospital, Civil Action No. 99-0410, Memorandum Opinion (D.D.C. Jan. 30, 2001). The parties settled the ADEA claim on or about May 17, 2001, and the case was voluntarily dismissed with prejudice.

While Civil Action No. 99-0410 was still pending, Howard terminated Mr. Moses in October 2000. He filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights, and received a "right to sue" letter from the EEOC on September 14, 2001. On December 6, 2001, Mr. Moses filed this suit, alleging retaliation in violation of Title VII and the DCHRA. He based his claim of retaliation on his October 2000 termination and various other alleged adverse employment actions. On February 12, 2007, this Court entered summary judgment in favor of Howard on all of Mr. Moses' claims except his claim that Howard unlawfully retaliated against him by terminating him. See Moses v. Howard University Hospital, 474 F. Supp. 2d 117, 127 (D.D.C. 2007). The Court subsequently set a trial on the remaining claim for January 28, 2008.

On December 10, 2007, Howard sought permission to file a renewed motion for summary judgment on the ground that "during the course of preparing for trial, [Howard] learned through a public records search that Plaintiff had filed two bankruptcy petitions during the pendency of [the instant case]" and failed to disclose the existence of this lawsuit in those petitions. See Def.'s Mot. at 2-3. Howard argued that Mr. Moses' failure to disclose this lawsuit in his bankruptcy proceedings barred him from maintaining his claim before this Court under the doctrine of judicial estoppel. By Order of January 16, 2008, the Court permitted Howard to file its renewed motion, vacated the January trial date and stayed all proceedings pending resolution of that motion. Mr. Moses thereafter filed an opposition to the renewed motion and two supplemental motions: one seeking to add Janet Nesse (the trustee in Mr. Moses' 2003 bankruptcy proceeding) as a plaintiff in this case, and the other seeking an oral hearing. Defendant has opposed both of Mr. Moses' supplemental motions.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment may be granted only if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits [or declarations] show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986); Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006). "A fact is 'material' if a dispute over it might affect the outcome of a suit under the governing law; factual disputes that are 'irrelevant or unnecessary' do not affect the summary judgment determination." Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d at 895 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248). An issue is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248; Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d at 895. When a motion for summary judgment is under consideration, "the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [his] favor." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 255; see also Mastro v. Potomac Electric Power Co., 447 F.3d 843, 849-50 (D.C. Cir. 2006); Aka v. Washington Hospital Center, 156 F.3d 1284, 1288 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (en banc); Washington Post Co. v. Dep't of Health and Human Services, 865 F.2d 320, 325 (D.C. Cir. 1989). On a motion for summary judgment, the Court must "eschew making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence." Czekalski v. Peters, 475 F.3d 360, 363 (D.C. Cir. 2007).

The non-moving party's opposition, however, must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials and must be supported by affidavits, declarations or other competent evidence setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e)(2); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The non-moving party is "required to provide evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find" in his favor. Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 1987). If the evidence is "merely colorable" or "not significantly probative," summary judgment may be granted. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249-50; see Scott v. Harris, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776 (2007) ("[W]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, 'there is no genuine issue for trial.'") (quoting Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). To defeat summary judgment, a plaintiff must produce more than "a scintilla of evidence to support his claims." Freedman v. MCI Telecommunications Corp., 255 F.3d 840, 845 (D.C. Cir. 2001).

III. DISCUSSION

A. The Parties' Arguments

Howard argues, and Mr. Moses does not dispute, that Mr. Moses filed two petitions for bankruptcy during the pendency of this lawsuit: one in 2003 (under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code) and one in 2007 (under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code). See Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in Support of Its Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment ¶¶ 11-22 ("Def.'s Facts").*fn2 Both proceedings were filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland. In both cases, Mr. Moses was required to execute under penalty of perjury a "Statement of Financial Affairs" setting forth -- among other things -- "all suits and administrative proceedings to which the debtor is or was a party within one year immediately preceding the filing of this bankruptcy case." Mr. Moses failed to disclose the existence of this lawsuit in both proceedings. See Def.'s Facts ¶¶ 13-14 (discussing 2003 Statement of Financial Affairs), 18-19 (discussing 2007 Statement of Financial Affairs).*fn3

Howard claims, and Mr. Moses does not dispute, that Mr. Moses ultimately obtained a discharge of unsecured debts in the amount of approximately $20,000 as a result of the 2003 bankruptcy proceeding. See Def.'s Facts ΒΆ 15. Mr. Moses' 2007 bankruptcy proceeding was closed when the bankruptcy court rejected Mr. Moses' ...


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