United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
A. KIMBALL United States District Judge.
matter is before the court on Defendant West Jordan
City's (“WJC's”) Motion for
Reconsideration and Clarification of the Court's Ruling
on Tolling of Plaintiff's Title VII Claim, WJC's and
Plaintiff Aaron Jensen's Objections to Pretrial
Disclosures, and supplemental briefing pursuant to the
court's instruction during the May 23, 2017, hearing. The
court concludes that a hearing would not significantly aid
its determination of the issues presented in these documents.
Accordingly, the court issues the following Memorandum
Decision and Order based on the written submissions of the
parties and the law and facts relevant to the pending issues.
“[a] motion for reconsideration is not specifically
provided for in the rules of civil procedure, . . . it is
within the court's discretion to reconsider a previous
order.” Baer v. Salt Lake City Corp., No.
2:13-CV-336, 2016 WL 3546256, at *1 (D. Utah June 23, 2016).
“Grounds warranting a motion to reconsider include (1)
an intervening change in the controlling law, (2) new
evidence previously unavailable, and (3) the need to correct
clear error or prevent manifest injustice.”
Id. (quoting Servants of the Paraclete v.
Does, 204 F.3d 1005, 1012 (10th Cir. 2000)).
DATE OF SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT
parties disagree as to the effective date of the agreement
settling Mr. Jensen's sexual harassment claims with WJC.
The date is relevant for two major reasons: the effective
date of the agreement determines what communications will be
excluded from trial as mediation communications, and, as part
of the agreement, Mr. Jensen released WJC from any claims as
of the date of the agreement. Mr. Jensen notes that, under
Utah law, the practice of parties to “memorialize in a
more formal document agreements created in mediation . . .
does not preclude the enforcement or finality of the
agreement created in mediation so long as the terms are
‘sufficiently definite as to be capable of being
enforced.'” Patterson v. Knight, 391 P.3d
1075, 1078 (Utah 2017). Based on this law, Mr. Jensen argues
that the settlement agreement between Mr. Jensen and WJC was
made effective on the date that the parties agreed to
sufficiently definite terms, which Mr. Jensen argues occurred
before April 29, 2009, when the written agreement was signed.
court agrees with Mr. Jensen that, under Utah law, an
enforceable agreement can be created through mediation
communications without a signed document. However, once an
agreement reached through mediation is memorialized into a
signed document, the signed document becomes the enforceable
agreement and supersedes any other related oral or written
negotiations, even if those negotiations would have been
sufficient in isolation to create an enforceable agreement.
See, e.g., Harrison v. Fred S James, P.A., Inc., 558
F.Supp. 438, 443 (E.D. Pa. 1983) (“Under the [parole
evidence] rule, any oral representations made during the
negotiation stage are merged in and superceded by the written
agreement.”). Mr. Jensen is essentially attempting to
contradict terms of the written contract, in this case the
effective date, through references to prior negotiations,
which Utah law does not allow. Tangren Family Trust
v. Tangren, 182 P.3d 326, 330 (Utah 2008)
(“[T]he parol evidence rule . . . operates . . . to
exclude evidence of contemporaneous conversations,
representations, or statements offered for the purpose of
varying or adding to the terms of an integrated
contract.”) Therefore, whether the communications
between Mr. Jensen and WJC would have been sufficient to
create an enforceable agreement at some point before April
29, 2009, is irrelevant because the agreement was
memorialized in a signed document on April 29, 2009.
Therefore, in this case, the effective date of the
enforceable settlement agreement is April 29, 2009.
concluded that the effective date of the settlement agreement
is April 29, 2009, the court also grants WJC's Motion in
Limine to Exclude Mediation Communications [Docket No. 231].
Specifically, the court excludes from evidence all
communications between the parties that meet the definition
of “mediation communications, ” as that term is
defined in Utah's Uniform Mediation Act, that occurred on
or before April 29, 2009. See Utah Code Ann. §
78B-10-102(2) (defining “mediation communication”
as “conduct or a statement, whether oral, in a record,
verbal, or nonverbal, that occurs during a mediation or is
made for purposes of considering, conducting, participating
in, initiating, continuing, or reconvening a mediation or
retaining a mediator”). The court further notes that,
pursuant to the terms of the settlement agreement, April 29,
2009, represents the date before which Mr. Jensen has
released all claims against WJC.
OF TITLE VII CLAIMS
August 11, 2016, the court issued a Memorandum Decision and
Order denying Mr. Jensen's Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment and granting in part and denying in part WJC's
Motion for Summary Judgment. In that Memorandum Decision and
Order, the court concluded that, although “discrete
acts that occurred outside of the 300-day window prior to Mr.
Jensen's filing of the Charge of Discrimination with the
EEOC are time barred, . . . genuine issues of material fact
exist as to whether equitable tolling should apply under the
‘misleading conduct' doctrine.” Mem. Decision
and Order, at 11, Aug. 11, 2016, ECF No. 186. On May 1, 2017,
WJC filed a Motion for Reconsideration and Clarification of
the Court's Ruling on Tolling of Mr. Jensen's Title
VII Claim. In its motion, WJC argues that the court applied
the wrong tolling law and requests that the court clarify the
evidentiary basis for the court's conclusion that genuine
issues of material fact exist as to whether equitable tolling
should apply. Specifically, WJC argues that the court applied
Utah's “misleading conduct” doctrine for
equitable tolling when, in the Tenth Circuit, “a Title
VII time limit will be tolled only if there has been
active deception of the claimant regarding procedural
requirements.” Jarrett v. U.S. Sprint Commc'ns
Co., 22 F.3d 256, 260 (10th Cir. 1994).
the court is aware of arguments against applying equitable
tolling in this case and understands the arguments regarding
the appropriate standard for equitable tolling, for purposes
of admitting evidence at trial, the court will assume that
equitable tolling applies. In other words, the court will not
exclude any evidence based solely on the objection that it is
outside of the 300-day window and equitable tolling should
not apply. The court will clarify the appropriate standard to
apply for equitable tolling in the court's instructions
for the jury, which the parties and the court will discuss in
the jury instruction conference that will take place before
the final day of trial.
supplemental briefing, WJC asks the court to determine the
question of law of whether WJC's Chief of Police or City
Attorney has final policymaking authority regarding WJC's
conduct related to Mr. Jensen's claims.
“‘[F]inal policymaking authority' is a legal
issue to be determined by the court based on state and local
law.” Randle v. City of Aurora, 69 F.3d 441,
447 (10th Cir. 1995) (citing City of St. Louis v.
Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 124 (1988)). In the Tenth
Circuit, to determine whether an individual is a “final
policymaker, ” a court should consider the following
three elements: “(1) whether the official is
meaningfully constrained ‘by policies not of that
official's own making'; (2) whether the
official's decisions are final-i.e., are they subject to
any meaningful review; and (3) whether the policy decision
purportedly made by the official is within the realm of the
official's grant of authority.” Id. at 448
argues that the West Jordan City Code explicitly confers
policymaking authority on the City Council, West Jordan City
Code § 1-6-5 (“As the legislative branch of city
government, the city council . . . establishes
policy”), and tasks the City Manager with executing
those policies and ensuring that the executive and
administrative activities of WJC are “consistent with
and fulfill the city council's policies, ” West
Jordan City Code §§ 1-6-6, 1-7D-4(B). WJC further
argues that no final policymaking authority is delegated to
department heads, such as the Chief of Police or the City
Attorney, because the policies and procedures manuals
developed and maintained by the department heads must have
the “approval of the city manager.” West Jordan
City Code § 1-7C-2(B)(2). But Mr. Jensen argues that the
West Jordan City Code also provides that department heads
“shall, ” among other things, “[e]xercise
authority over al subordinates, ” West Jordan City Code
§ 1-7C-2(B), and that the City Manager can delegate to
the department heads any duties the city manager “shall
deem appropriate, ” West ...