may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
James R. Manteuffel,
City of North St. Paul,
Filed July 15, 1997
Ramsey County District Court
File No. C4917007
Charles W. Faulkner, Brian C. Southwell, Faulkner & Faulkner, Suite 500, 701 Fourth Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for appellant)
David J. Hoekstra, Jardine, Logan & O'Brien P.L.L.P., 2100 Piper Jaffray Plaza, 444 Cedar Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Short, Judge, and Schultz, Judge.[*]
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
After North St. Paul police officer James Manteuffel informed his supervisor that a superior officer had initiated an altercation during a patrol call, the city terminated Manteuffel's employment. Manteuffel later brought a discrimination action against the city under the whistleblower statute, and, following trial, the jury found in favor of the city. On appeal from the trial court's denial of his posttrial motions, Manteuffel argues the trial court abused its discretion in: (1) denying him discovery relating to other police trainees' evaluation reports; (2) excluding testimony regarding post-termination comments directed to Manteuffel by the chief of police; and (3) excluding testimony concerning the police department's refusing Manteuffel post-termination access to his personnel file. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
The granting of a new trial rests largely within the discretion of the trial court, and reversal of such a decision is warranted only for a clear abuse of discretion. Jack Frost, Inc. v. Engineered Bldg. Components Co., 304 N.W.2d 346, 352 (Minn. 1981). Likewise, evidentiary rulings on materiality, remoteness, and relevance are committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. Jenson v. Touche Ross & Co., 335 N.W.2d 720, 725 (Minn. 1983). We will not interfere with a trial court's rulings on discovery matters unless it clearly appears the rulings have no reasonable support. Carlisle v. City of Minneapolis, 437 N.W.2d 712, 716-17 (Minn. App. 1989).
Manteuffel argues the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to compel the production of field-training evaluations of certain police officers who he alleges were situated similarly to him with respect to training and employment. See Smith v. Monsanto Chem. Co., 770 F.2d 719, 723 (8th Cir. 1985) (requiring employee alleging discrimination to prove he or she was similarly situated, in all relevant respects, to more favorably treated employee), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1050 (1986). We disagree. The record demonstrates Manteuffel failed to: (1) certify to the court his compliance with Minn. R. Prac. 115.10; (2) pursue a confidentiality agreement as required by a prior trial court order; or (3) complete any discovery during the 15 months immediately following the original discovery order. Under these circumstances, we cannot say the trial court's denial of Manteuffel's motion to compel was without reasonable support in the record. See Minn. R. Prac. 115.10 (providing that court shall not hear discovery motion until parties have conferred and attempted to resolve differences and requiring moving party to certify to the court, prior to hearing, that parties have complied with such rule).
Manteuffel also argues the trial court abused its discretion in quashing his subpoena of a certain officer's field-training evaluations, which Manteuffel also intended to use as evidence of pretext. However, the record shows: (1) the officer entered the city's officer field-training program approximately four years after Manteuffel began the program; (2) the program the officer was required to complete differed from Manteuffel's program in the areas of supervision, length, and evaluation criteria; (3) while Manteuffel was required to undergo extension of his training and probationary periods, the other officer was not; and (4) the individuals acting as chief of police and city manager differed between the time periods of Manteuffel's and the other officer's employment. Thus, Manteuffel and the officer were not similarly situated for purposes of this discrimination claim, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in quashing Manteuffel's subpoena of the officer's field-training evaluations.
Manteuffel also argues the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to admit testimony regarding a certain post-termination verbal exchange between Manteuffel and the chief of police, including the chief's remark that "I am letting it stand for the record that I fired you, because I don't want to see you going some place else and being someone else's headache and problem." Specifically, Manteuffel contends the statement was direct evidence of discrimination, and its exclusion resulted in jury instructions that did not properly shift the burden of production to the employer. See Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228, 258, 109 S. Ct. 1775, 1795 (1989) (holding that in "mixed motive" discrminiation cases, where plaintiff proves by direct evidence that employer's decision was motivated by discriminatory reason, burden of persuasion shifts to employer).
Even if the stray remark was admissible as direct evidence of discrimination, Minnesota courts have rejected a mixed motive analysis in employment discrimination claims. See Anderson v. Hunter, Keith, Marshall & Co., 417 N.W.2d 619, 624 (Minn. 1988) (rejecting different burden-shifting scheme employed in federal mixed motive analysis). Thus, Manteuffel's argument for "mixed motive" jury instructions fails, and the trial court's refusal to admit the statement is harmless error. See Jenson, 335 N.W.2d at 725 (holding error in evidentiary ruling is not grounds for new trial if error is harmless).
Manteuffel further argues the trial court abused its discretion in excluding testimony regarding the police department's post-termination refusal to allow Manteuffel access to his personnel file and Manteuffel's related filing of a Data Practices Act claim. However, the record shows the department's denial of Manteuffel's access request was a post-termination event that was not relevant to his termination. See Minn. R. Evid. 402 (providing irrelevant evidence is not admissible). Furthermore, because facts relating to the Data Practices Act claim occurred well after Manteuffel's termination and were wholly independent of that action, the trial court excluded the testimony on the basis of possible prejudice and confusion of the issues. See id. at 403 (allowing exclusion of relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by prejudice or confusion of issues, or could mislead jury). Under these circumstances, we cannot say the trial court abused its discretion in excluding this testimony.
[ ] * Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.