United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and DR. RACHEL TUDOR, Plaintiffs,
SOUTHEASTERN OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY and THE REGIONAL UNIVERSITY SYSTEM OF OKLAHOMA, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. CAUTHRON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
United States began this Title VII action in March of 2015.
Ten days later, Plaintiff Tudor filed a Complaint in
Intervention and was permitted to intervene in the action.
The Complaint raised claims of sex discrimination and
retaliation arising under Title VII. Plaintiff Tudor's
Complaint in Intervention added a hostile work environment
claim. Plaintiffs entered a common interest agreement and
have worked closely in preparing this claim for trial. In
August of 2017, Plaintiff United States settled its claims
with Defendants. Plaintiff United States now seeks dismissal
from this action. Defendants agree to Plaintiff United
States' request for dismissal; however, Plaintiff Tudor
Tudor raises four concerns which drive her objection to the
request for dismissal. First, she is concerned that if
Plaintiff United States' claims are dismissed with
prejudice, that dismissal could be construed as a judgment or
ruling which precludes the continued litigation of her mirror
claims. In response, both Defendants and Plaintiff United
States acknowledge that their settlement agreement would not
have any impact on the merits of Plaintiff Tudor's
claims. Thus, this argument does not provide a basis to deny
the request for dismissal.
Plaintiff Tudor argues that the dismissal of United States
may trigger an election of remedies as to Tudor and her
claims. Once again, the Court finds no support for
Plaintiff's concerns. In the event that Plaintiff
prevails at trial in this matter and is awarded damages, any
concern about double recovery or the effect of the settlement
can be addressed at that stage. To the extent Plaintiff seeks
prospective relief, any issues related to such an award may
be addressed at the time the issue arises. Delaying dismissal
of Plaintiff United States from this action is not necessary
to preserve the appropriate chance to address those matters.
Plaintiff Tudor argues that she should be permitted to
continue to use experts originally retained and designated by
Plaintiff United States - Drs. Parker and Brown. Defendants
object, arguing that avoiding the cost of the depositions of
those experts was one of the reason it settled the case with
Plaintiff United States. The Court is not persuaded by
Defendants' arguments. In her witness list, Plaintiff
Tudor designated the witnesses listed by Plaintiff United
States which included these expert witnesses. Further,
Defendants did not object to Plaintiff Tudor's adoption
of Plaintiff United States' expert witnesses.
Additionally, it is apparent from the parties' briefs
that Plaintiff Tudor advised Defendants of her intent to use
these experts and that she was willing to carry forward with
their previously set depositions. It was Defendants who
declined this opportunity. Accordingly, the Court finds that
Plaintiff Tudor will be permitted to offer into evidence the
expert testimony of Drs. Parker and Brown without regard to
the dismissal of Plaintiff United States.
Plaintiff wishes to have the Court impose certain conditions
on Plaintiff United States, preventing it from making filings
or public statements regarding the settlement. As Plaintiff
United States notes, Plaintiff Tudor has failed to offer any
legal authority supporting her request for such a restriction
and for this reason that request will be denied.
have also filed a Motion for Protective Order seeking an
order from the Court prohibiting Plaintiff United States
and/or Plaintiff Tudor from making any statement to members
of the media regarding the settlement and/or its terms. As
the basis for its request, Defendants argue that absent the
requested protective order it is likely the jury pool will be
irrevocably tainted by media coverage of the Plaintiff United
States' resolution of the case.
request will be denied. First, Defendants have failed to
overcome the presumption attached to the openness of court
filings. While in certain instances, parties may agree to a
confidential settlement agreement, that is typically a matter
of contract between the parties. As the parties here could
not reach agreement on those terms, the general right of
publicity attaching to court proceedings governs. Further,
the Court finds that appropriate voir dire and instruction
from the Court will eliminate any issues of bias or prejudice
arising from pretrial coverage. Accordingly, Defendants'
request for a protective order will be denied.
reasons set forth herein, the Stipulation and Joint Motion
for Dismissal of Plaintiff United States' Complaint with
Prejudice (Dkt. No. 164) is GRANTED IN PART. All claims
brought by Plaintiff United States against Defendants are
dismissed with prejudice. However, Plaintiff Tudor may offer
as evidence in this case the expert opinions and reports of
Drs. Parker and Brown. Defendants Southeastern Oklahoma State
University and the Regional University System of
Oklahoma's Motion for Entry of Protective Order (Dkt. No.
156) is DENIED. United States' Motion to Compel
Production of ESI Withheld on the Basis of Privilege (Dkt.
No. 146) and Defendants Southeastern Oklahoma State
University and ...