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Costello v. Kirkwood Printing Company, LLC

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 19, 2018

PAUL F. COSTELLO, Plaintiff,



         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Paul Costello (“Costello”) filed a complaint against his former employer, Kirkwood Printing Company, LLC (“Kirkwood Printing”), claiming that Kirkwood Printing unlawfully discriminated against him on the basis of his age in violation of Mass. Gen. L. c. 151B and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”). D. 1. Kirkwood Printing then filed a motion for summary judgment. D. 22. For the following reasons, the Court ALLOWS Kirkwood Printing's motion for summary judgment.

         II. Standard of Review

         The role of summary judgment is “to pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.” Mesnick v. Gen. Elec. Co., 950 F.2d 816, 822 (1st Cir. 1991) (quoting Garside v. Osco Drug, Inc., 895 F.2d 46, 50 (1st Cir. 1990)). The Court grants summary judgment where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the undisputed facts demonstrate that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A fact is material if it carries with it the potential to affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law.” Santiago-Ramos v. Centennial P.R. Wireless Corp., 217 F.3d 46, 52 (1st Cir. 2000) (quoting Sánchez v. Alvarado, 101 F.3d 223, 227 (1st Cir. 1996)). A genuine dispute of material fact exists where the evidence with respect to that fact “is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The movant bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Carmona v. Toledo, 215 F.3d 124, 132 (1st Cir. 2000). The Court must view the entire record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and make all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. O'Connor v. Steeves, 994 F.2d 905, 907 (1st Cir. 1993).

         III. Factual Background

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted and are drawn from the parties' submissions of material facts, D. 24, D. 29, D. 32. Kirkwood Printing is a printing and mailing company that sells offset and digital printing services to various customers. D. 24 ¶¶ 13, 16. Kirkwood Printing is owned by Kirkwood Holdings, Inc., (“Kirkwood Holdings”), a holdings company that owns five printing/mailing divisions. D. 24 ¶ 13. Kirkwood Holdings has five co-owners: John Cummings, Robert Coppinger, Edward Kelley, William Winship, and Chuck Colvin. D. 24 ¶¶ 9, 14.

         Costello worked as a salesperson at Kirkwood Printing from 1993 to 2014. D. 24 ¶ 17. In 2014, Kirkwood Holdings experienced financial difficulties and conducted layoffs across several divisions, including Kirkwood Printing. D. 24 ¶¶ 65-66. Costello was among those laid off and was 71 years old at that time. D. 23 at 1; D. 25-1 ¶ 3. The sales team at Kirkwood Printing, prior to the layoff, consisted of eighteen people. D. 25-13 at 2. Two of those people were under 40; two of those people were in their forties; seven of those people were in their fifties; six of those people were in their sixties; and only Costello was in his seventies. D. 24 ¶¶ 70, 79; D. 25-13 at 2. The two people, other than Costello, who were laid off were 33 and 51 years old. D. 24 ¶ 70; D. 25-13 at 2. Across Kirkland Holding's divisions, thirty-six salespeople remained employed, including one person who was 75 years old. D. 24 ¶ 80.

         Costello's responsibilities consisted of “finding clients that need services that were available from Kirkwood Printing and presenting the capabilities of Kirkwood Printing to those clients.” D. 24 ¶ 17. His supervisor, during the relevant period, was Robert Brown. D. 24 ¶ 18. Each salesperson reporting to Brown would have a set of prospects on his list for which he was responsible for making contact. D. 24 ¶¶ 20-21. If a salesperson wanted to call on a prospect that was on the list of another salesperson, the salespeople could agree to transfer the prospect and Brown would approve it. D. 24 ¶ 21. If the salespeople did not agree, then Brown would “referee” the decision of who would be in charge of selling to that prospect, based on whether any salesperson had made progress with the prospect and which salesperson had the higher likelihood of success. D. 24 ¶¶ 22-23. There is a dispute between the parties regarding the extent to which Costello refused to give up prospects to other salespeople, requiring intervention from Brown. D. 24 ¶¶ 19-48; D. 29 ¶¶ 25-27, 39. It is undisputed that Brown discussed his perception that Costello unreasonably refused to give up prospects with the co-owners of Kirkwood Holdings. D. 24 ¶¶ 29-30.

         Each year from 2008 to 2013, Costello's annual sales declined. D. 24 ¶ 49. Costello had only one new client in 2013, and only one new client in 2014 as of June. D. 24 ¶ 50. One of Costello's clients, Boston University, accounted for the majority of Costello's sales in 2012, 2013, and 2014. D. 24 ¶¶ 51-52. Edward Kelley and William Winship, two of the co-owners of Kirkland Holdings, D. 24 ¶ 14, would also directly interface with Boston University to handle its needs. D. 24 ¶¶ 54-64.

         In 2014, when the co-owners discussed whom to lay off, they solicited input from Brown. D. 24 ¶¶ 71, 73. The co-owners discussed that if they terminated Costello, they would be unlikely to lose Boston University's business because of the relationship that Kelley had with Boston University. D. 24 ¶ 71. They added that Costello had had little success in converting prospects into clients. D. 24 ¶ 71. They also discussed their view that Costello had been challenging to deal with in terms of prospects. D. 24 ¶¶ 71-72, D. 29 ¶ 89.

         Prior to laying off Costello, Kelley reached out to his contact at Boston University to inform him that Costello would be laid off, and the contact indicated that Costello's lay off would not affect its business with Kirkwood Printing. D. 24 ¶ 75. Costello was subsequently laid off in June 2014. D. 24 ¶ 76. After that, the Boston University account was serviced by Winship and Kelley for some time, and then taken over by Bill Rizzo, another salesperson, who was younger than Costello. D. 24 ¶ 83, D. 29 ¶ 85.

         IV. Procedural History

         On July 18, 2016, Costello filed suit in Middlesex Superior Court against Kirkwood Printing, asserting violations of state and federal antidiscrimination laws. D. 1-1 at 2-4. On August 12, 2016, Kirkwood Printing removed the case to this Court. D. 1 at 1. The Court heard argument on Kirkwood ...

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