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09/15/87 Norman Stilphen, v. Northrop Corporation

September 15, 1987

NORMAN STILPHEN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT

v.

NORTHROP CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, SECOND DIVISION

515 N.E.2d 154, 161 Ill. App. 3d 560, 113 Ill. Dec. 345

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. William A. Kelly, Judge, presiding.

Rehearing denied October 6, 1987 1987.IL.1344

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE HARTMAN delivered the opinion of the court. SCARIANO, P.J., and STAMOS, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE HARTMAN

Plaintiff's appeal from dismissal of his complaint for failure to state a cause of action raises the issue of the sufficiency of his claim of retaliatory discharge.

On December 15, 1984, plaintiff and a co-worker, Mike Bell, both employed by defendant, Northrop Corp. (Northrop), went to a party together from work in Bell's car, leaving plaintiff's car in the Northrop parking lot. Bell allegedly "became extremely drunk, intoxicated and irrational" at the party, and plaintiff drove Bell's automobile and Bell back to the Northrop parking lot, where plaintiff refused to return Bell's car keys, because Bell was too "drunken and intoxicated" to drive and "driving in such a condition would be dangerous and hazardous." Plaintiff then told Bell that he would drive Bell home. Bell became enraged, insisted upon the return of his keys so that he could drive himself home, and began an argument with plaintiff, demanding the return of his keys. The dispute was observed by another Northrop employee who notified security guards who apparently came and broke up the "altercation."

Northrop conducted an investigation of the circumstances of the incident and, according to the complaint, found that "the cause and reason for the altercation was . . . that PLAINTIFF was attempting to keep . . . BELL from operating an automobile while drunk and intoxicated." Northrop subsequently fired both plaintiff and Bell; according to the complaint, Northrop's stated reason for discharging plaintiff was: "for 'being under the influence of intoxicants' and 'fighting on company property.'"

On February 10, 1986, plaintiff filed a complaint against Northrop in the circuit court of Cook County alleging, among other things:

"11. That the actions of the DEFENDANT in terminating the PLAINTIFF from his employment were in breach of its duty to the PLAINTIFF and in retaliation for PLAINTIFF'S actions to avoid crime and to assist and to transport an intoxicated person."

In support of his claim, plaintiff asserted that his actions in preventing a drunken co-worker from driving while intoxicated were reflective of the public policy of Illinois, stating:

"8. That it is the duty of the DEFENDANT to refrain from taking retaliatory action against an employee for the exercise of conduct which is encouraged or protected by the public policy of the State of Illinois. [Citation.]

9. That the public policy of the State of Illinois encourages its citizens who drive, including the PLAINTIFF, to offer assistance and transportation to anyone who has become intoxicated so that a drunken and intoxicated person will not operate a motor vehicle upon the highways of the State of ...


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