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Egermier v. Pennington County

United States District Court, D. South Dakota

September 30, 2014

DAVID J. EGERMIER, Plaintiff,
v.
PENNINGTON COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of South Dakota, Defendant.

ORDER

JEFFREY L. VIKEN, Chief District Judge.

Pending before the court is defendant's motion for summary judgment. (Docket 18). The court referred defendant's motion to Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy for a report and recommendation. (Docket 43). On March 3, 2014, Magistrate Judge Duffy filed a report recommending the court deny defendant's motion for summary judgment in its entirety. (Docket 44). Defendant timely filed objections and plaintiff filed a response to defendant's objections.[1] (Dockets 45 & 48).

The court reviews de novo those portions of the report and recommendation which are the subject of objections. Thompson v. Nix , 897 F.2d 356, 357-58 (8th Cir. 1990); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court may then "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

For the reasons stated below, defendant's objections are overruled. The court adopts in full the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge.

A. MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S FINDINGS OF FACT

Neither party objected to the magistrate judge's findings of fact. See Dockets 45 & 48. The magistrate judge's findings of fact are adopted by the court in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). Specific facts will be discussed to the extent they relate to defendant's objections.

B. PENNINGTON COUNTY'S OBJECTIONS

Defendant asserts the magistrate judge erred (1) by applying the incorrect legal standard when analyzing its motion for summary judgment; (2) in finding defendant liable using the "Cat's Paw" theory; and (3) in finding Kiel v. Select Artificals, Inc. , 169 F.3d 1131 (8th Cir. 1999) and Mershon v. St. Louis Univ. , 442 F.3d 1069 (8th Cir. 2006) distinguishable from Mr. Egermier's case. (Docket 45 at pp. 2-8). The court will address each objection separately.

1. Whether the magistrate judge applied the incorrect legal standard when analyzing defendant's motion for summary judgment.

Defendant contends the magistrate judge erred in refusing to follow binding Eighth Circuit present established in Griffith v. City of Des Moines , 387 F.3d 733 (8th Cir. 2004). (Docket 45 at p. 2).

After setting forth the material facts relevant to the defendant's motion for summary judgment, the magistrate judge considered what standard applied to the evaluation of Mr. Egermier's claims. The magistrate judge recognized under Eighth Circuit law, Mr. Egermier could survive a motion for summary judgment in two ways. First by providing "direct evidence" of discrimination by

"showing a specific link between the alleged discriminatory animus and the challenged decision, sufficient to support a finding by a reasonable fact finder than an illegitimate criterion actually motivated' the adverse employment action."

(Docket 44 at p. 19) (quoting Griffith , 387 F.3d at 736) (citing Thomas v. First Nat'l Bank of Wynn , 111 F.3d 64, 66 (8th Cir. 1997)).

Absent evidence of direct discrimination, the magistrate judge explained Mr. Egermier could survive summary judgment by raising an inference of discrimination under the McDonnell-Douglas burden shifting analysis. (Docket 44 at p. 19) (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green , 411 U.S. 792 (1973)).

The magistrate judge explained the difference between the "direct evidence" approach and McDonnell-Douglas:

The Eighth Circuit applies the "direct evidence" requirement in mixed-motive cases-i.e. those cases where discrimination was "a" motivating factor for an adverse employment decision, but other nondiscriminatory motivations existed concurrently. The McDonnell-Douglas analysis "creates a shifting set of evidentiary burdens aimed at smoking out the single, ultimate reason for the adverse employment decision."

(Docket 44 at p. 21) (citing Griffith , 387 F.3d at 735-36; Wright v. Murray Guard, Inc. , 455 F.3d 702, 720 (6th Cir. 2006) (Moore, J., concurring) (internal citations omitted)).

Mr. Egermier's claim of discrimination was premised on the mixed-motives analysis. But argued in the alternative he also satisfied the burden under the ...


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