Judge denies motion for new trial in Children's Mercy Hospital wrongful termination suit

By Sandra Lane | Aug 13, 2018

KANSAS CITY – Despite a plaintiff’s allegations that there were 10 reasons why she should be granted a new trial, U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith denied the motion July 9.

Baidehi L. Mukherjee sued Children’s Mercy Hospital over allegations of wrongful dismissal. The appeal was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Western Division.

“Based upon the evidence presented at trial, the jury’s verdicts did not constitute a miscarriage of justice, and were not a seriously erroneous result. Finally, plaintiff, who does not point to anything specific in the record, has not met her burden of proving that a new trial is warranted. For these reasons, plaintiff’s motion for a new trial on the basis that the jury’s verdicts were allegedly against the great weight of the evidence is denied,” Smith wrote in the order.

Mukherjee alleged that some of the witnesses’ testimonies were based on hearsay and that the jury was influenced and prejudiced by these statements.

“The court discerns no evidentiary error, much less an error that so prejudiced plaintiff to require a new trial. Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial based upon this ground is denied,” Smith wrote.

Plaintiff also said the court erred in excluding evidence of the circumstances surrounding the departure of her supervisor, Warren Dudley, in 2016. She argued that the court erred in preventing her from testifying about Dudley’s negative comments regarding minorities (African-Americans). 

“The court discerns no prejudicial error in excluding alleged comments about African-Americans in a matter where an Asian female of Indian descent alleged discrimination and harassment,” Smith wrote.

In addition, the plaintiff said the court "prevented her from presenting evidence of the difficulties she had encountered in securing employment due to her abrupt and wrongful termination. She contends she was not allowed to explain the results of her job search, and was not permitted to present evidence showing the timing and reasons for rescinded offers from potential employers," according to the opinion. 

“Plaintiff was only precluded from speculating that defendant somehow interfered with her job search. The court finds there was no evidentiary error, much less an error that so prejudiced plaintiff to require a new trial. Thus, plaintiff’s motion for a new trial on this ground is denied,” Smith wrote.

As related in the opinion, the judge also denied all additional reasons plaintiffs submitted for granting a new trial. 

“'A motion for new trial based on sufficiency of the evidence should be granted only if the jury’s verdict was against the great weight of the evidence, so as to constitute a miscarriage of justice,'” Smith cited in the ruling.  

He said that the moving party "has the burden of proving the propriety of a new trial" and that "the outcome of this trial was mostly dependent on whose testimony the jury believed."

“The possibility that the jury could have found plaintiff more credible than defendant’s witnesses, which may have resulted in a different result, is not a sufficient basis for granting a new trial,” Smith wrote.

In conclusion, Smith said, “The court finds that plaintiff fails to demonstrate that a miscarriage of justice occurred. Accordingly, plaintiff’s motion for a new trial is denied.”

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