Williams v. Shelby County Board of Education, No. 2:2017cv02050 - Document 254 (W.D. Tenn. 2021)

Court Description: ORDER Granting in Part 247 Plaintiff's Motion to Reconsider and Calculating Prejudgment Interest. Signed by Judge Thomas L. Parker on 2/23/2021. (ljt) (Main Document 254 replaced on 2/23/2021) (ljt).
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No. 250 at PageID 7032.) And she could have corrected the parties’ miscalculations in her reply brief as well. In fact, Plaintiff acknowledges that she made a mistake. (ECF Nos. 247-2 at PageID 7012; 253 at PageID 7045.) And Defendant, presumably, made a mistake in its calculations as well. (See ECF No. 241 at PageID 6972.) The Court notes that this is one of its oldest cases on this Court’s docket. And mistakes like this one only add to the delay. With all this in mind, it is likely that Plaintiff could have exercised reasonable diligence to discover that Defendant paid her in twenty-six, not twenty-four, pay periods. But in any event, the Court finds that denying Plaintiff’s motion to reconsider would result in manifest injustice under Rule 54(b). See Rodriguez, 89 F. App’x at 959. Though Sixth Circuit cases “do not offer clear guidance as to what qualifies as ‘manifest injustice,’ . . . the plain meaning of those words is instructive.” Volunteer Energy Servs., Inc. v. Option Energy, LLC, 579 F. App’x 319, 330–31 (6th Cir. 2014). “[M]ore than a clear error is required; injustice must also result.” Id. District courts in this circuit have further found that “manifest injustice requires that there exist a fundamental flaw in the court’s decision that without correction would lead to a result that is both inequitable and not in line with applicable policy.” United States v. Allen, No. 14-20191, 2020 WL 4592901, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 11, 2020) (quoting McDaniel v. Am. Gen. Fin. Servs., 5 Case 2:17-cv-02050-TLP-jay Document 254 Filed 02/23/21 Page 6 of 10 PageID 7069 Inc., No. 04-2667, 2007 WL 2084277, at *2 (W.D. Tenn. July 17, 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted)). The Sixth Circuit’s decision in Volunteer Energy Services is instructive here. 579 F. App’x at 330–331. There, the plaintiff failed to raise a claim to ongoing commission payments at trial. Id. at 330. The plaintiff then moved the district court to amend its judgment to require the payments. Id. The district court granted the motion, finding that it would be a manifest injustice not to do so. Id. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit found that the district court correctly reconsidered its order. Id. The court found that the error was obvious because the agreement plainly provided for ongoing commission payments. Id. at 331. And the court found that “the error would have resulted in injustice—i.e. a wrong, want of equity, or unfairness—in not giving [plaintiff] its due desert.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Though the motion at issue in Volunteer Energy Services was a motion to reconsider a judgment, not an interlocutory order, the Sixth Circuit’s analysis still applies here. This Court found that Plaintiff was entitled to back-pay without offset from her termination on March 7, 2016, through October 30, 2018. (ECF No. 237 at PageID 6948.) It was therefore an error not to award Plaintiff the full amount of her back-pay during that period. Like in Volunteer Energy Services, it would be “a wrong, want of equity, or unfairness” not to award Plaintiff the full amount of back-pay that Defendant owes her. See Volunteer Energy Servs., 579 F. App’x at 331. Plus, the Sixth Circuit found that it would be manifest injustice not to award ongoing commission payments to the plaintiff in Volunteer Energy Services, even though the plaintiff could have raised the argument earlier in the proceedings. Id. Likewise, Plaintiff here could 6 Case 2:17-cv-02050-TLP-jay Document 254 Filed 02/23/21 Page 7 of 10 PageID 7070 have corrected her mistake before the Court entered its order. 1 But this does not change the fact that denying Plaintiff her full back-pay award would be a manifest injustice. In the end, the Court finds that the parties and the Court miscalculated Plaintiff’s backpay award, and that it would be a manifest injustice not to reconsider its order awarding Plaintiff only $192,988.02 in back-pay. The Court therefore GRANTS Plaintiff’s motion to reconsider, and ORDERS Defendant to pay Plaintiff $211,019.73 2 plus prejudgment interest. II. Interest Rates under Tenn. Code Ann. § 47-14-103(2) In its order on Plaintiff’s Teacher Tenure Act damages, the Court noted that neither party argued that the prejudgment interest rate fell within Tennessee Code Annotated § 47-14-103. (ECF No. 246 at PageID 7005 n.6.) And as a result, the Court awarded prejudgment interest of 5% under § 47-14-123 and found that “[t]he parties may file a motion with the Court if a different interest rate applies under § 47-14-103(2).” (Id.) Plaintiff now argues that “an award of back-pay would be more appropriately classified as ‘all other transactions’” under § 47-14-103(3). (ECF No. 247-2 at PageID 7013.) But she provides no basis or support for this argument. (Id.) Nor does she provide any evidence that the interest rate in § 47-14-103(2) applies here. Plus, even if this Court applied § 47-14-103(3), that statute establishes the maximum interest rate only and 5% is within the range for that statute. 3 1 The Court also recognizes that Plaintiff did, in fact, realize that the parties’ back-pay calculations were incorrect before the Court entered its order. Plaintiff, however, is proceeding pro se and did not understand how to raise the issue to the Court. (See ECF Nos. 253 & 253-1.) 2 The Court followed Plaintiff’s proposed back-pay calculation to arrive at this amount. (See ECF No. 247-4.) Defendants waived any dispute with this calculation because they failed to address it in their response. 3 What is more, the Court applied § 47-14-123 which establishes the same maximum interest rate as § 47-14-103(3). 7 Case 2:17-cv-02050-TLP-jay Document 254 Filed 02/23/21 Page 8 of 10 PageID 7071 All in all, Plaintiff does not argue that the Court should reconsider the prejudgment interest rate because there is new law or evidence. See W.D. Tenn. R. 7.3(b). Nor does she argue that the Court failed to consider material facts or legal arguments presented to it, or that the Court made a clear error. Id. And she fails to present any evidence that either § 47-14-103(2) or (3) apply here. As a result, the Court DENIES Plaintiff’s motion to reconsider its findings about her prejudgment interest award. The Court awards Plaintiff prejudgment interest at a rate of 5% only. (See ECF No. 246 at PageID 7005.) PREJUDGMENT INTEREST CALCULATION The Court directed both parties to submit proposed calculations of prejudgment interest to the Court within ten days of the Court’s order on Plaintiff’s Teacher Tenure Act claims. (ECF No. 246 at PageID 7006.) Plaintiff submitted proposed calculations with her motion for reconsideration. (ECF No. 247-4 at PageID 7021.) Defendants did not submit any proposed calculations. This Court awarded Plaintiff prejudgment interest of 5% under Tenn. Code Ann. § 47-14123. (ECF No. 246 at PageID 7005.) Tennessee courts have often calculated prejudgment interest under the simple interest method by applying the annual interest rate to the judgment amount, from the date the cause of action accrued to the date the court entered judgment. See, e.g., Myint v. Allstate Ins. Co., 970 S.W.2d 920, 927 (Tenn. 1998). In fact, the Tennessee Supreme Court has found that “[b]y the plain meaning of its terms,” § 47-14-123 does not allow for compound interest awards. Otis v. Cambridge Mut. Fire. Ins. Co., 850 S.W.2d 439, 446–47 (Tenn. 1992). Indeed, “[t]o interpret the statute to mean compound interest is authorized constitutes a forced construction that impermissibly extends the intent of the legislature.” Id. And so, the court found that an award of prejudgment interest under the statute “should be 8 Case 2:17-cv-02050-TLP-jay Document 254 Filed 02/23/21 Page 9 of 10 PageID 7072 calculated at simple interest with a 10% per annum cap.” Id. This Court, therefore, finds it should award simple interest here. But this case is also unique. Though Plaintiff’s damages began accruing after Defendant wrongfully excised her in March 2016, the final amount of her back-pay award was not certain until October 2018, when Defendant authorized Plaintiff’s termination. (ECF Nos. 46-1 at PageID 313–14; 122-3.) “An award of prejudgment interest is within the sound discretion of the trial court.” Myint, 970 S.W.2d at 927. And using that discretion, that Court finds that prejudgment interest should start on October 30, 2018—the day Defendant authorized Plaintiff’s termination and finalizing the calculation of her back-pay. (See ECF No. 122-3 at PageID 3326.) The prejudgment interest period runs until the Court enters judgment, which the Court will do after entry of this order. The Court now explains its prejudgment interest calculations. The Court awarded prejudgment interest at 5% per annum. Five percent of $211,019.73 4 is $10,550.99. And dividing that number by 365, the number of days in a year, equals $28.91 per day. This means that Plaintiff is entitled to $28.91 in prejudgment interest per day between October 30, 2018 and today, February 23, 2021. There are 848 days between those dates. Multiplying 848 by $28.91, the Court finds that, as of the date of the entry of this order, Plaintiff is entitled to $24,515.68 in prejudgment interest. The daily rate of pre-judgment interest will accrue until the earlier of this Court entering its judgment or when Defendants pay the amount owed. CONCLUSION In conclusion the Court GRANTS IN PART Plaintiff’s motion to reconsider. The Court revises its back-pay award but does not reconsider the prejudgment interest rate. The Court 4 As previously discussed, this is the amount of Plaintiff’s back-pay award. 9 Case 2:17-cv-02050-TLP-jay Document 254 Filed 02/23/21 Page 10 of 10 PageID 7073 further ORDERS Defendant to pay Plaintiff $211,019.73 in back-pay, plus $24,515.68 in prejudgment interest. SO ORDERED, this 23d day of February, 2021. s/Thomas L. Parker THOMAS L. PARKER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 10