Heard: Date November 9, 2016.
case was tried before Daniel A. Ford, J., an award
of attorney's fees was ordered by him, and motions for
judgment notwithstanding the verdict and to alter or amend
the judgment were heard by him.
Leonard H. Kesten for the plaintiff.
M. Pikula, City Solicitor, for the defendants.
Present: Kafker, C.J., Kinder, & Lemire, JJ.
April 13, 2006, the board of license commissioners (board) of
the city of Springfield (city) denied plaintiff Will
Quarterman's application for a liquor license.
Quarterman, an African American, brought this action against
board chairman Peter Sygnator and the city, claiming that
denial of the application was discriminatory and in
retaliation for Quarterman's earlier filing of a
complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against
Discrimination (MCAD). Ultimately, a Superior Court jury
rejected the claim of racial discrimination, but found that
the city, through the actions of former Mayor Charles Ryan,
had retaliated against Quarterman in violation of G. L. c.
151B, § 4(4) . The jury awarded damages of $250, 000 in
lost profits and $100, 000 for emotional distress. The city
challenged the verdict in posttrial motions for judgment
nothwithstanding the verdict (judgment n.o.v.), to alter or
amend the judgment, and for a new trial. Principally, the
city argued that the evidence of retaliation and damages was
insufficient. In a comprehensive written decision, the trial
judge denied the motions as to liability for retaliation, but
allowed them, in part, as to damages. The judge concluded
that there was evidentiary support for the award of $100, 000
for emotional distress. However, he found that the evidence
of lost profits was "lacking in substance." He also
reasoned that Quarterman had failed to establish standing to
claim lost profits because the profits were not direct and
personal to him. Accordingly, the judge reduced the damages
from $350, 000 to $100, 000. Quarterman challenges that
ruling on appeal.
cross-appeal, the city argues that (1) the motions for
judgment n.o.v. and to alter or amend the judgment should
have been allowed in their entirety; (2) the judge erred in
refusing to instruct the jury regarding the mayor's right
to freedom of speech; (3) the judge abused his discretion in
denying a motion in limine to admit findings in a related
Federal case; and (4) the judge abused his discretion in
awarding attorney's fees.
reasons that follow, we affirm the order denying the motion
for judgment n.o.v. as to liability for retaliation, and
affirm the order to alter or amend the judgment by
eliminating damages for lost profits. We also conclude that
the jury were properly instructed, and that the judge did not
abuse his discretion with respect to the motion in limine and
the award of attorney's fees.
summarize the facts in the light most favorable to
Quarterman, reserving some details for our discussion. See
Abramian v. President & Fellows of Harvard
College, 432 Mass. 107, 110 (2000). Quarterman had been
in the bar business in the city for several years. In
September, 2002, he opened a nightclub, Logan's Lounge,
after obtaining a liquor license from the board. The business
operated without incident until April, 2004, when a brawl and
shooting occurred there during an afterhours party. Although
Quarterman was not present at the time, police reports
suggested that he was. Immediately following the shooting,
Quarterman voluntarily closed Logan's Lounge. Shortly
thereafter, the business was evicted from the property and
August, 2004, Quarterman and a new business partner, Paul
Ramesh, applied to the board to transfer the liquor license
to a new club called Halo that they planned to open in the
entertainment district of the city. Despite Quarterman's
repeated requests for a hearing on the application, one was
not convened until March, 2005. In the intervening months,
Sygnator raised multiple concerns about the interior design
of the club, which Quarterman addressed. There was also a
concern about the proposed venue, which had previously been
occupied by a nightclub called Asylum. Asylum had posed
problems for the city because of large crowds, excessive
noise, vandalism, illegal drug use, and violence.
March 2, 2005, Quarterman filed the first of two complaints
with the MCAD. He alleged that the city, the mayor, and
Sygnator discriminated against him on the basis of race by
failing to schedule a vote on his application to transfer the
liquor license. Meanwhile, the board held a hearing and voted
three to two to deny the application. The city, through its
attorney, suggested to Quarterman and Ramesh that they
address the concerns raised by the board and apply for a new
January, 2006, Quarterman and Ramesh applied for a new liquor
license in the name of their new corporation, Exile
Entertainment, Inc. The hearing on the application was
delayed from March 9, 2006, to April 13, 2006, at the
mayor's request so that he could attend. At the hearing,
the mayor, who had never previously appeared before the
board, argued against the application. He also recruited
other witnesses to speak in opposition to the application,
including the police commissioner and a representative of
American International College. In support of his opposition,
the mayor cited the shooting at Logan's Lounge,
suggesting that Quarterman had been present when it had
occurred. The board voted three to one to deny the
application. At least one commissioner changed his vote based
on the mayor's opposition.
contrast, immediately following the vote denying Exile a
liquor license, the board voted to approve a liquor license
for another nightclub in the entertainment district, the
Alumni Club. The mayor spoke in favor of that application.
issuance of the board's final written decision denying
his application, Quarterman filed a second complaint with the
MCAD. He again alleged that the city and Sygnator
discriminated against him on the basis of race and engaged in
retaliation. Following a finding of probable cause by the
MCAD, Quarterman removed the complaint to Superior Court by
filing this action.
the judge's memorandum of decision did not distinguish
between the relief sought by the city in its motion for
judgment n.o.v. and its motion to alter or amend the
judgment, the motions addressed different issues. The city
clarified the relief sought by each motion in its joint
memorandum in support of all posttrial motions: "The
[c]ity has moved, pursuant to Massachusetts Rule of Civil
Procedure Rule 50(b), [as amended, 428 Mass. 1402 (1998), ]
for judgment in its favor notwithstanding the verdict as to
liability for retaliation; moved, pursuant to Massachusetts
Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 59(e), [365 Mass. 827 (1974), ]
to alter or amend the judgment by deducting the amount of
damages awarded for lost profits; and moved, pursuant to
Massachusetts Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 59(a), [365 Mass.
827 (1974), ] for a new trial on the issue of liability for
retaliation attributed to Mayor Ryan." Thus, the city
sought to address liability with its motion for judgment
n.o.v. and motion for new trial, and damages with its motion
to alter or amend the judgment. While the judge's
decision and some of the pleadings conflate these issues, we
address liability and damages separately as the city framed
them at the outset.
Motion for judgment n.o.v. regarding ...