United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR A NEW TRIAL
AND JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW
O. RICE, Chief United States District Judge
THE COURT is Defendant's Motion for New Trial and
Judgment as a Matter of Law. ECF No. 92. This matter was
heard with telephonic oral argument on January 17, 2018. The
Court has reviewed the record and files herein, and is fully
informed. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's
Motion for a New Trial and Judgment as a Matter of Law (ECF
No. 92) is DENIED.
case concerns the discharge of Plaintiff Irene Riggs as
executive director for Defendant Life Care Centers'
Sandpoint facility, a long-term care facility in Idaho. ECF
No. 1-2 at ¶¶ 1, 9-10. Plaintiff asserted that she
was terminated in violation of the Washington Law Against
Discrimination (WLAD) under RCW 49.60.210(1) and Washington
State public policy after she reported sexual misconduct in
the workplace by her supervisor, Tim Needles, and a
subordinate employee, Nurse Caren Bays. Id. at
¶¶ 37-46; 31 at 2. Defendant contended that
Plaintiff was discharged for abusing a resident. ECF No. 32
jury entered a verdict in favor of Plaintiff and judgment was
entered on November 2, 2017. ECF No. 81. In the instant
motion, Defendant requests a new trial on Ms. Riggs'
retaliation claim and judgment in its favor on her claim of
wrongful discharge in violation of public
policy. ECF No. 92 at 1.
New Trial for the WLAD claim
for a new trial are governed by Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 59. Under Rule 59, a court may grant a new trial
“only if the verdict is contrary to the clear weight of
the evidence, is based upon false or perjurious evidence, or
to prevent a miscarriage of justice.” Passantino v.
Johnson & Johnson Consumer Prods., Inc., 212 F.3d
493, 510 n.15 (9th Cir. 2000). When ruling on a Rule 59
motion, the court must “weigh the evidence as [the
court] saw it” and determine whether the jury's
verdict is “contrary to the clear weight of the
evidence.” Molski v. M.J. Cable, Inc., 481
F.3d 724, 729 (9th Cir. 2007) (quotation and citation
omitted). The court may not, however, grant a new trial
“simply because it would have arrived at a different
verdict.” Silver Sage Partners, Ltd. v. City of
Desert Hot Springs, 251 F.3d 814, 819 (9th Cir. 2001).
Defendant requests a new trial for Ms. Riggs' retaliation
claim, arguing that the clear weight of the evidence
established that Ms. Riggs did not oppose sex discrimination
or what she reasonably believed was sex discrimination. ECF
No. 92 at 3. Under WLAD, an employee must show she had an
objectively reasonable belief that her employer violated the
law, not that the employer did in fact violate the law.
Lodis v. Corbis Holdings, Inc., 172 Wash.App. 835,
852 (2013) (citing Ellis v. City of Seattle, 142
Wash.2d 450, 460-61 (2000)). There are two types of sexual
discrimination claims cognizable under the WLAD: “the
quid pro quo sexual harassment claim, where the employer
requires sexual consideration from the employee for job
benefits, and the hostile work environment claim.”
Antonius v. King Cty., 153 Wash.2d 256, 261 (2004).
The WLAD requires a “liberal construction of its
provisions, ” cautioning against any construction that
would narrow the coverage of the law. Lodis, 172
Wash.App. at 848 (citing RCW 49.60.020; Marquis v. City
of Spokane, 130 Wash.2d 97, 108 (1996)).
asserts that Ms. Riggs did not complain about quid pro quo
harassment or a hostile work environment, but testified that
she complained about a consensual relationship between Mr.
Needles and Ms. Bays. ECF No. 92 at 3-4. Defendant contends
that Ms. Riggs complained that Mr. Needles violated Life
Care's Code of Conduct concerning superior-subordinate
relationships, not a violation of the WLAD. Id. at
4. Defendant emphasizes that Ms. Riggs referenced unlawful
conduct in one instance at trial:
A [Ms. Riggs]: I felt that he was violating the Code of
Conduct and --
Q [Mr. Skidmore]: And --
A: I'm sorry. That's it.
Q: And what about the Code of Conduct did you tell him that
you felt that ...