United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ex rel., KEVIN CODY and MUGE CODY, Plaintiffs,
MANTECH INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Anthony J. Trenga United States District Judge
before the Court is a Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law
or, in the Alternative, for a New Trial [Doc. No. 127] (the
“Motion”), filed on behalf of Defendant ManTech
International Corporation (“ManTech” or
“Defendant”). At the conclusion of
Plaintiffs' case, ManTech moved for judgment as a matter
of law pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a). The Court reserved
ruling on this motion. Following Defendant's case, the
Court submitted the action to the jury, which returned a
verdict against ManTech and in favor of Plaintiffs Kevin Cody
(“Mr. Cody”) and Muge Cody (“Mrs.
Cody”) (collectively, the “Codys” or
“Plaintiffs”) for unlawfully terminating each of
them and for compensatory damages for emotional distress in
the amounts of $500, 000 to Mr. Cody and $300, 000 to Mrs.
Cody. ManTech timely filed the Motion pursuant to
contends in its Motion that it is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law because the evidence presented at the jury
trial is insufficient (1) to establish causation between
Plaintiffs' filing of this qui tam suit and
ManTech's terminations of them and (2) to support the
award of damages for emotional distress. Alternatively,
ManTech contends that (1) the verdicts are against the weight
of the evidence and a new trial should be granted and (2) the
damages awards are excessive and should be remitted. For the
reasons below, the Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in
part. It is granted insofar as the Court finds the evidence
at trial insufficient to support the jury's compensatory
damage awards for emotional distress and is otherwise denied.
evidence presented at trial, the Codys are former executives
of ManTech, a multinational government contractor
specializing in providing technological services to the
United States Government, including its armed services. Mr.
Cody began his employment with ManTech in 1990. He rose
steadily within ManTech, eventually becoming President of the
Business Unit that managed large contracts with the United
States Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command
(“TACOM”) for the maintenance of Mine Resistant
Ambush Protected (“MRAP”) vehicles in Afghanistan
and Kuwait. Mrs. Cody began her employment with ManTech in
2001. Mrs. Cody also did well at ManTech, becoming Vice
President in May 2009 and in that role serving as the program
manager for the 5-year cost-reimbursement contract for the
MRAP program that ManTech secured in May 2012 (the
“MRAP Contract”). In 2011-12, the Codys, in
particular Mr. Cody, had disputes with other ManTech
executives regarding the pricing in ManTech's bids for
the MRAP Contract. In short, the Codys believed that reduced
pay to the employees working in Afghanistan and Kuwait
proposed in the bids would be unsustainable in practice and
rendered ManTech's bids misleading.
dispute persisted, and on December 12, 2013, the Codys filed
under seal this qui tam action, in which they
alleged that ManTech defrauded the United States in violation
of the False Claims Act (“FCA”). On November 18,
2014, the United States filed a notice declining to intervene
in the suit, which became unsealed on November 21, 2014. On
December 23, 2014, counsel for the Codys sent a letter to
ManTech instructing it to preserve evidence related to the
Codys' claims against ManTech for violations of the FCA
and related statutes. On January 8, 2015, the Codys, through
counsel, served ManTech with a copy of the original
complaint. On January 12, 2015, ManTech informed the Codys
that it was performing an internal investigation into whether
ManTech had committed any FCA violations and that it was
placing them on paid administrative leave during the pendency
of that investigation.
March 8, 2015, Mr. Cody learned that he would be terminated
effective March 20, 2015. Kevin Phillips, ManTech's
President and Chief Operating Officer, testified that Mr.
Cody was terminated, along with a number of other senior
executives, due to a sharp decline in ManTech's revenue
due to the United States' drawdown in Afghanistan and
other arenas. On June 17, 2015, ManTech informed Muge Cody
that she would be terminated effective July 1, 2015. Mike
Brogan, Senior Vice President at ManTech, testified that
ManTech terminated Mrs. Cody because the Army eliminated her
MRAP Contract program manager position, along with the deputy
program manager position.
February 25, 2016, ManTech moved to dismiss Plaintiffs'
original complaint. In response, the Codys filed their First
Amended Complaint on March 16, 2016, in which they abandoned
the qui tam claim for violation of the FCA. Instead,
the Codys asserted only claims for retaliation in violation
of the FCA, 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h), and the Defense
Contractor Whistleblower Protection Act, 10 U.S.C. §
September 14, 2016, the Court granted ManTech's motion
for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims for
retaliation based on conduct other than the filing of this
qui tam action, finding that none of the Codys'
other relied upon conduct constituted “protected
activity” that could sustain a claim for retaliation.
there is no dispute that their terminations constituted
adverse employment actions, the only issue for the jury to
decide with respect to liability was whether there was
sufficient causation between the filing of this qui
tam action and Plaintiffs' respective terminations.
At trial, the parties stipulated to the amount of back pay
damages each Plaintiff would be entitled to receive should
they prevail on the issue of liability and also agreed that
in the event of liability, the issue of front pay was for the
Court to decide, leaving compensatory damages for emotional
distress as the only damages issue for the jury to decide.
The jury found that ManTech unlawfully terminated the Codys
in retaliation for their filing of this qui tam suit
and awarded damages for emotional distress in the amount of
$500, 000 to Mr. Cody and $300, 000 to Mrs. Cody.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
50(b) “tests the legal sufficiency of a claim, that is,
it assesses whether the claim should succeed or fail because
the evidence developed at trial was insufficient as a matter
of law to sustain the claim.” Belk, Inc. v. Meyer
Corp., 679 F.3d 146, 155 (4th Cir. 2012). Relief under
Rule 50(b) should be granted only if “the
plaintiff's case is, as a matter of law, so weak that no
rational jury could find in favor of the plaintiff.”
Id. at 161. In deciding a motion under Rule 50(b),
the Court must view abide by the following precepts:
In determining whether the evidence is sufficient the court
is not free to weigh the evidence or to pass on the
credibility of witnesses or to substitute its judgment of the
facts for that of the jury. Instead it must view the evidence
most favorably to the party against whom the motion is made
and give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences
from the evidence.
Whalen v. Roanoke Cnty. Bd. of Supervisors, 769 F.2d
221, 224 (4th Cir. 1985) (internal quotation marks omitted).
If there is evidence on which a reasonable jury may find in
favor of the plaintiff, the judgment should be affirmed.
Price v. City of Charlotte, N.C. , 93 F.3d 1241,
1249-50 (4th Cir. 1996); see also Dennis v. Columbia
Colleton Med. Ctr., 290 F.3d 639, 645 (4th Cir. 2002)
(“if reasonable minds could differ, we must
affirm”). Further, “[j]ury verdicts are entitled
to the utmost ...